Carmelo Anthony turned back the clock for a team-high 28-point explosion off the bench, the Lakers’ defense looked incrementally more like a Frank Vogel team and L.A. withstood a 40-point performance from Ja Morant to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 121-118 for their first win of the season on Sunday.
With the Lakers up three points in the closing seconds, Morant was fouled by Kent Bazemore on a three-point attempt with 2.5 seconds remaining but missed what would have been the game-tying free throw after sinking the first two, allowing the Lakers to escape.
The 37-year-old Anthony showed why he still has value in his 19th NBA season, hitting 10 of his 15 shots from the field and going a lights-out 6-8 from beyond the three-point line. He also passed Moses Malone for ninth place in the NBA’s all-time scoring list when a three in the third quarter secured his 27,411th career point.
MELO. MONEY— NBA (@NBA) October 25, 2021
24 PTS in 22 minutes off the bench for Carmelo Anthony! pic.twitter.com/ILKmgmIfPE
Four of the Lakers’ five starters scored in double-digits as LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook all showed what makes them superstars despite inefficient shooting nights. Westbrook struggled from the field once again, scoring 13 points on 5-14 shooting, but facilitated the offense with a team-high 13 assists to go along with six rebounds. James played 40 minutes and went 7-19 from the field as well as 4-9 from deep, notching 19 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
Davis went 8-15 for 22 points and eight rebounds along with four blocks, helping anchor a Lakers defense that was just good enough to secure a victory. L.A. had 10 steals and 12 blocks as a team and forced 17 turnovers.
The Lakers almost gave up the lead in the final quarter, but Anthony, Davis and Malik Monk hit their free throws to ice it. Monk finished with 12 points on 4-7 shooting and was 2-3 from deep. Kent Bazemore hit all three of his attempts from the field, scoring 11 points but struggled mightily as Morant’s primary defender, finishing with a plus-minus of -16 in 28 minutes.
After Memphis took a quick 10-point lead over the Lakers’ starters in the first quarter, the hosts stormed back on a 32-11 run paced by the crisp defense and passing that showed a glimpse of what the James/Vogel teams of the past couple of years looked like when firing on all cylinders.
Westbrook made his presence felt with nine assists in the first half including a beautiful full-court pass to Austin Reaves off a Grizzlies turnover. He then went on a personal nine-point scoring run to keep the Lakers ahead late in the second quarter as the Grizzlies started to crawl back and L.A. went into halftime leading 62-56.
Memphis got right back in the game early in the third with another nice run against the Lakers’ starters, taking advantage of some defensive miscues from DeAndre Jordan to eventually make it a back-and-forth contest. Jordan continues to struggle in purple and gold thus far, finishing with -15 in 14 minutes.