Down three starters without LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Danny Green, it really wasn’t surprising that the Lakers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies. Every team loses a game here and there, and dropping one without three key rotation players isn’t too surprising.
Wait... What? I’m being told Davis and James played despite being on the injury report heading into the night and the Lakers having another game tomorrow? And the Lakers still lost to the Grizzlies by 17?
With Green sitting out, Alex Caruso got the start at shooting guard, but the infusion of energy he brought wasn’t enough to counteract how much Green’s absence cramped the spacing for that group, and the Lakers ultimately fell 105-88 on the road.
The Lakers just had no answer for rookie sensation Ja Morant, who finished with 27 points and 14 assists, or Jonas Valanciunas, who bullied L.A. on the glass to end the night with 22 points and 20 rebounds. They were also sloppy with the ball committing 14 turnovers. James finished with 5 turnovers by himself on a night where he never appeared to fully activate.
L.A. did manage to cut the deficit to just 9 points in the fourth quarter after some nifty trapping from Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo, a chasedown block from James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three, but Memphis took a timeout and immediately went on a 7-2 run to essentially put the game back to bed. Frank Vogel emptied his bench after that, and it was all she wrote for the evening.
This loss was (astonishingly) the Lakers’ first one on the road against a Western Conference team since opening night, and drops L.A. to 45-13. They now finish the season series against Memphis with a 3-1 win.
“Good” news has to be graded on a curve after a disappointing loss, but this does snap a five-game losing streak for the Grizzlies and help them in their quest to beat out the New Orleans Pelicans for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Tonight’s result notwithstanding, that would still likely be a more favorable outcome for the Lakers, even if they are likely to beat either team fairly handily in the postseason.
The Lakers will now get on a plane to face those very same Pelicans on Sunday in the final contest of their three-game road trip. We’ll see if they show up with a bit more energy and effort for that one, given that it’s on national television.