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HomeSportsBasketballAnthony Davis and LeBron James power Lakers past Grizzlies

Anthony Davis and LeBron James power Lakers past Grizzlies


First it was the Lakers. Then it was a returning Ja Morant. And in between, it was a defense-first playoff game, one Lakers fans have been waiting nearly a decade to witness.

With a full home crowd watching a playoff game for the first time since 2013, the Lakers delivered a massive blow early and then held off one of the NBA’s biggest young stars in a 111-101 win Saturday at Crypto.com Arena.

The Lakers lead the series with Memphis 2-1.

Anthony Davis scored 31 and LeBron James added 25, the two playing in front of a sellout crowd after the pandemic forced the team to play the 2020 postseason in Orlando and the 2021 first-round matchup with Phoenix in front of limited fans.

With the combined energy from a poor start in Game 2 and a home crowd Saturday, the Lakers authored one of the most dominant quarters in NBA history to build too steep of a hill for the Grizzlies to climb.

Davis also grabbed 17 rebounds, with D’Angelo Russell (17), Rui Hachimura (16) and Austin Reaves (13) also scoring in double figures.

After missing Game 2 with a hand injury, Morant started and scored 45 points, including six threes.

Desmond Bane scored 18 and the Lakers held Jaren Jackson Jr. to 13, aided by foul trouble that disrupted his rhythm.

Lakers star LeBron James collides with Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant during the third quarter Saturday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Lakers star LeBron James puts up a shot in front of the Memphis Grizzlies' defense.

Lakers star LeBron James puts up a shot in front of the Memphis Grizzlies’ defense during the first quarter Saturday night.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In so many ways, Game 2 couldn’t have started worse for the Lakers.

The rims seemed to shrink with every clank, the Grizzlies’ confidence and physicality growing with every second, pushing the Lakers away from a commanding start to their first-round series.

Memphis set the terms of that game, determining the pace, the force and the way the Lakers would have to play as they tried to claw back into the game — a trip the Lakers couldn’t make.

Saturday with the series knotted 1-1, things couldn’t have started much better.

With the Lakers focused on a fast start and the capacity crowd hungry for a sellout playoff atmosphere that hasn’t existed for the Lakers in a decade, the Lakers set the terms.

James, goaded by Dillon Brooks after Game 2, attacked the basket for the first two points. The crowd howled whenever Brooks touched the ball, daring him to shoot and celebrating when he missed.

The lead was six. Then it was 16. And then 26.

It was the best-case result after the Lakers keyed in on the start in practice, coach Darvin Ham urging his team to “dig in” and “make multiple efforts.”

By the time the first quarter ended, the Lakers led 35-9, tied for the most lopsided first quarter in NBA postseason history. The Grizzlies, somehow, made only three of 25 shots.

The lead pushed to 29 in the second quarter, but the Lakers were destined to learn one of the NBA’s undeniable truths.

The only thing worse than being down 29 early in this NBA, though, is being up 29.

“Things are not going to be perfect,” Ham said. “ … You can’t panic.”

The Lakers cooled down as Memphis settled into the game — they were really never that hot to begin with, their offense being driven almost entirely from their defense.

Jumpers were hard to come by as Memphis and Morant kept attacking.

Despite the padding and tape around his right hand and wrist, Morant hit a pair of threes as the Grizzlies made their push at the end of the second.

One player in a dark-colored jersey argues with two players in light-colored jerseys.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, and Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane, left, argue in front of Lakers guard Dennis Schroder in the third quarter.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Lakers forward Rui Hachimura drives to the basket against the Grizzlies in the first quarter.

Lakers forward Rui Hachimura drives to the basket against the Grizzlies in the first quarter.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Memphis closed the half on a 13-1 run, the Lakers scoring only 18 in the quarter to give the Grizzlies life.

Brooks, who said he was comfortable poking bears when he called James “old” after Game 2, got ejected seconds into the second half of Game 3. Brooks reached in and hit James in the groin, triggering a flagrant two.

He was booed throughout the game.

While Memphis trimmed the deficit to as close as 13 midway into the third, Davis finished the third with nine points in the final four minutes of the quarter to shove away Memphis again.

The Grizzlies pushed again and got within nine in the fourth, but the Lakers held off Memphis despite 24 points from Morant in the final quarter.

After having extra days off between each of the series’ first two games, the series picks up speed with games coming every other day beginning with Game 4 on Monday in Los Angeles.



This story originally appeared on LA Times

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