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Lakers channel championship legacy in Game 6 win over Grizzlies

Jack was back.

The Memphis Grizzlies never stood a chance.

D-Lo was floating.

The Memphis Grizzlies never got close.

A.D. was relentless, The King ruled, and screams of “Dee-fense” and “M-V-P” and “Let’s Go Lakers” rocked the house and rolled down Figueroa Street.

It was over before it started.

On a familiar Friday night dominated by first names and nicknames and ancient chants, these newfangled Lakers resoundingly lived up to their legacy.

Needing to close out a series, they slammed it so hard that Crypto.com Arena shook.

Hoping to make a statement across the upside-down NBA playoff landscape, they screamed it.

Lakers 125, Grizzlies 85, and, just like so many previous memorable moments in their history, the locals have sent the postseason’s first round cowering into the spring night.

A 40-point victory? Against a higher seeded team? To storm into the second round? Are you kidding me?

“Win and advance!” public address announcer Lawrence Tanter intoned, and, yeah, he’s also said that a few times.

The game was so lopsided, the starters were pulled just three minutes into the fourth quarter. The effort was so intense, the Lakers blocked 15 shots, outscored the Grizzlies by 20 points in the paint, and scored more than twice as many second-chance points.

The resemblance to past Lakers close-out playoff games was so great, even relative newcomer LeBron James felt it.

“This franchise is known for winning championships and winning big and playing in big games and being a part of the postseason and the fans coming out and having an opportunity to be a part of that,” James said. “Tonight was another moment I always envisioned when I became part of this franchise.”

James said he’s felt every postseason game where Crypto has gone crazy. He said the arena is batting 1.000.

“So far we’ve had three and they’ve been electric,” he said.

Next up, rest! With the Sacramento Kings stunning the Golden State Warriors on Friday night in their Game 6, the Lakers can now take the weekend off and wait for that series to be decided in Game 7 on Sunday.

After that, well, would you bet against the Lakers against either opponent? They’re getting better with each big game. They’re getting unexplainably stronger with each grueling battle. They’ve thrust themselves not only into a powerful position against whoever they play, but also into a time machine.

Shaq and Kobe did this kind of stuff once. Championship runs looked like this once. This all feels so familiar. It all feels so right.

“It’s amazing, to say the least,” Austin Reaves said.

The Friday night stage was set for drama. Gold glow sticks were waved hauntingly from the stands. Jack Nicholson was sitting courtside for the first time this season. James showed up more than four hours early. Then the game started, and the noise started, and for more than two hours it never quieted, every decibel thunderous, every decibel earned.

“D-Lo!” they chanted.

D’Angelo Russell, with his potential replacement Kyrie Irving awkwardly hugging James from his courtside seat, hammered the gossip with his most impactful minutes as a Laker — 31 points and several sizzling moments where he just couldn’t miss.

Deep floater. Roar. Fall-away fling. Roar. Swerving rainbow. Roar.

“To be in a position to actually make the shots I’ve been taking … to finally make some is definitely a good feeling,” Russell said. “But the win was better, to be honest.”

“A.D.!” they chanted.

Anthony Davis played his most important defensive game as a Laker — owning the interior, five blocks, 14 rebounds, countless altered shots — against a Memphis team that made just 30% of its attempts.

“He was A.D.,” James said. “The world knows … how dominant A.D. is defensively … so, he was A.D. He was spectacular.”

How tough was Davis? His shining moment wasn’t a feathery jumper or easy dunk, it was a bruising crash into a crowd in the corner of the end zone as he saved a loose ball. Davis held his hands in the air in triumph.

“M-V-P” they chanted.

James looked tired in Game 5 but came sprinting back Friday night with 22 points, a game-high plus-32 rating, and one breathtaking stretch that essentially clinched the outcome before halftime.

One moment, he was fighting through three Grizzlies to sink a layup while falling hard on the baseline. The next moment, he finished the first half with a driving, reverse dunk. James is now 12-1 in the playoffs when his team has a three-games-to-two lead. The Close-out King.

“It’s unreal, man, I’m telling you, man, it’s unreal,” said coach Darvin Ham. “Bron, man, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

There was talk before the game that James might be gassed. He struggled during the Game 5 loss in Memphis and was playing on one day’s rest for only the second time this postseason. There was fear that James’ age and Davis’ frailty would be catching up to them.

But listening to his team talk between games, hearing James preach, noticing Davis work, Ham knew they were ready.

“It was one of those things where you knew, you felt the vibe,” he said.

And James proceeded to prove again that no aging athlete has ever been as adept at staying young.

“He’s probably the best I’ve seen … in terms of what he does for his body to snap back,” Ham said. “He’s the master of that.”

Once the ball was tipped, the only remaining question in that locker room was whether they had a killer instinct.

They do. And it’s a doozy.

They led by 11 after the first quarter, 17 at halftime, 33 after three, and they just kept piling it on, so much that Nicholson spent the game looking like a gleeful cherub.

You want the truth? A few more Lakers moments like this one and the rest of NBA can’t handle the truth.



This story originally appeared on LA Times

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