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‘Game 7 mentality’: Lakers close out Grizzlies to earn rest

Darvin Ham sat down at the podium a happy man late Friday night, his Lakers team having just disposed of the Memphis Grizzlies, his underdog team having moved on to the next round of the Western Conference playoffs.

The Lakers coach looked up and heard an excited voice from the back of the room before any questions were asked.

“Whoooeee!” Ham’s wife, Deneitra, yelled.

“Oh, sorry,” she said, realizing that an interview was about to take place.

Ham looked up and smiled.

“Thanks, baby,” he said.

Ham and his wife had reason to be in a joyous mood.

The Lakers had just defeated the trash-talking Grizzlies 125-85 at Arena to win the best-of-seven series 4-2 and advance to the second round of the playoffs.

The Lakers kept moving forward after starting the season 2-10, eventually defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA’s play-in game to become the seventh seed.

LeBron James wanted his younger teammates to enjoy the moment, but he also wanted them to understand that the next round will be even tougher.

The Lakers will face either the fourth-seeded Sacramento Kings or fifth-seeded Golden State Warriors, the two playing Sunday afternoon in Game 7.

The Lakers will take off Saturday and Sunday before practicing Monday. Game 1 of the second-round series will be Tuesday.

Ham said he and his staff will watch the Kings-Warriors game and begin preparation for another all-out basketball war.

“The staff and I will get together on Sunday, watch the game, and whoever comes out, I mean, we’ve already been working behind the scenes,” Ham said. “You don’t want to wait till you get to this point and then start the preparation process. We’ve already been doing that. So, whoever comes out on top, we’ll be ready to go.”

The Lakers were 1-3 against the Kings during the regular season and 3-1 against the Warriors. All three of the Lakers’ wins against the Warriors came after the Feb. 9 trade deadline that netted Los Angeles D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura and Malik Beasley. All three of the Lakers’ losses to the Kings came before L.A. acquired them.

The second-round games will come every other day, leaving little time to rest.

“Well, it’s definitely going to be a challenge,” James said about the schedule. “But both teams have to go through it. It’s us, either Sacramento or Golden State. We’re going to both be on the same schedule. The plus is that it’s not a four-hour flight like we were just taking going to Memphis and losing two hours during the process.

“So, you was losing six hours just going back there, right off jump. So, we stay in the same time zone. We stay in the same state. It’s a hour flight to each place, less if it’s Sac, a little bit more if it’s to the Bay. So, that definitely helps.”

The Lakers didn’t want to return to Memphis for a Game 7 on Sunday.

This was their game to win and Ham went all-in by sticking to an eight-man rotation.

“It was definitely a Game 7 mentality for us,” James said. “We understood that we had an opportunity to play in front of our fans and we wanted to try to end it tonight. We came out with a disposition, with a next-play mentality. And even when we made mistakes, we brushed it off right away and moved on to the next play.

“So, I just think from the start of the game, we were just locked in on our game plan and all the way until the final seconds of the game.”

This story originally appeared on LA Times

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