The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t play a perfect game, but once again, the combined might of LeBron James and Anthony Davis was just enough for the team to squeak away with a 109-108 win they probably didn’t deserve, extending their current winning streak to seven games in the process.
“We’re happy to get a W, but we have to play to a higher standard than we did tonight. We’re lucky to get out of here with a win."— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) November 24, 2019
-Frank Vogel on @SpectrumSN
The Lakers got off to another one of their now-typical slow starts, getting outscored by the Grizzlies 35-25 in the first quarter. It would have been easy for the team to just kind of lackadaisically let this one slip away on the second night of a back-to-back, but in a continuing sign that this team doesn’t want to let any games drop easily — no matter how seemingly inconsequential — the Lakers battled back, taking the lead for the first time in the third quarter.
The Grizzlies seemed to turn the tide to start the fourth quarter, going on an 11-0 run and appearing to seize momentum. But the Lakers wouldn’t die, and with just over two minutes left on the clock, Anthony Davis continued to show why the Lakers want him to shoot more threes, knocking down a huge one off of an assist from Kyle Kuzma. Then the Lakers got a stop, quickly followed by a three from LeBron James.
When James missed an attempt at a back-breaking three on the next possession, Davis tipped the ball home to give the Lakers a four-point lead — and just enough juice to hold on despite a pair of late brain farts from Kuzma, who had a late dead-ball foul and turnover that nearly gave the Grizzlies a shot to win it at the buzzer, a shot that would have been more dangerous had the young Memphis squad taken a timeout right when they caught the rebound instead of passing it first. Ah, the perils of youth.
Davis finished the game with 22 points while making three of his six threes, while James finished with 30 points. Rajon Rondo also contributed 14 points and was a +4 in box plus-minus. While one-game samples of that stat can be dangerous, he did do an admirable job of holding it down at the guard spot in the absence of Avery Bradley and Alex Caruso.
In a worrying trend, the Lakers’ defense continues to slip since Bradley went down, giving up more than 100 points per 100 possessions for the fifth game in a row, according to NBA.com. That will be something the Lakers need to clean up moving forward, or eventually they aren’t going to be able to keep stealing these games at the end.
Even in a loss, Ja Morant was transcendent for the Grizzlies, and continues to make his case as the Rookie of the Year frontrunner in the absence of Zion Williamson. He showed waterbug quickness, great instincts and an impressive sense of timing and rhythm while finishing with 26 points and 6 assists. Memphis has a good one.
The Lakers will have Sunday off to recover before they play their third game of their current four-game road trip on Monday in San Antonio against the Spurs. And if they don’t bring more defense and energy in that one, the Lakers’ current late-game luck may just run out.