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Joakim Noah explodes off the bench to help Memphis beat L.A.

The Lakers made it a competitive game against the Grizzlies late, but couldn’t do enough to escape Memphis with a win.

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are slowly running out of rope when it comes to their postseason hopes, and while they made a late charge to make a game out of things, a late charge call from LeBron James — and another late missed free-throw — all-but-sealed the team’s fate in a 110-105 loss.

James and the rest of the starters were actually pretty good — at least offensively — but once again were let down by a reserve unit that scored just seven points combined in today’s “Sad But True Lakers Stat Of The Day.”

The Lakers now fall to 29-31, and are now 3 games back of the eighth and final playoff spot with just 22 games left to play.

In the latest impressive defeat from the Lakers’ defense, they successfully reanimated Joakim Noah and pulled him out of his grave to drop 14 points and 12 rebounds off of the bench for Memphis, production that allowed the Grizzlies to push their lead in the first half before doing just enough to hold on.

Noah was key to the Grizzlies destroying the Lakers on the offensive glass in the first half, as L.A. got hammered 8-2 on the boards to help the Grizzlies build their lead — and critical momentum — before the Lakers ultimately closed the gap to 15-10 for the game.

Brandon Ingram continued his now-annual New Year resurgence for the Lakers, exploding for 32 points on 18 shots, and hit a huge three to bring the Lakers as close as 91-89, but L.A. wasn’t able to get closer as the Grizzlies made just enough plays to get their 24th win of the season.

Another loss to a lottery team might be just destructive enough to ruin the Lakers’ playoff hopes in the end, because games like this were the type they simply had to get as they chase a tightly contested playoff spot. They haven’t done so, and it’s hard not to think it’s going to come back to bite them.

The Lakers will try to bounce back when they return home to host the New Orleans Pelicans, but at this point it’s hard to have faith they can right the ship.

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