The Lakers offered little resistance to the Grizzlies all night long on Sunday as their four-game win streak was snapped in blowout fashion, 127-119.
Despite gaining a reputation as the Lakers feeder team in recent years after a number of players have been bought out by Memphis, it was the Grizzlies who made the Lakers looked like the inferior team on Sunday. The Grizzlies were lights out from the field all night, racing out to a lead by the second period and blowing the game wide open in the third.
That came despite a sterling performance from LeBron James, who finished with 35 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists while shooting 14/19 from the field and 3/4 from the arc. But no other Lakers was in double digits in scoring by the end of the third quarter with Talen Horton-Tucker reaching that milestone next only during garbage time in the fourth.
After a string of games against subpar opponents in recent weeks, the Lakers were dealt a bit of a reality check of how the rest of their season will be. And while the team flirted with a wild comeback late, the result was never really in doubt after the midway point of the third. The Lakers will need to step up their level to continue their strong stretch of games.
While the Lakers jumped out to a 4-0 lead, Memphis went on a 10-2 run in response fueled by turnovers by the hosts and 3-pointers from Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane. A spectacular Ja Morant two-handed block punctuated a strong start for the Grizzlies in the early stages.
James carried the load early in the game before 3-pointers from Malik Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker tied the game at 20 apiece. It was Horton-Tucker who took over from James’ hot start with eight points of his own in the first quarter, eventually giving the Lakers a 25-23 lead. Combined, the pair scored 20 of the team’s 27 first-quarter points.
The second period turned into an offensive shootout with teams trading 3-pointers as well as words with Desmond Bane and James having a war of words early on. Still, the Grizzlies took a 43-37 lead after a 3-pointer from Ziaire Williams, forcing a Lakers timeout.
Following the war of words with Bane, James went into superhero mode, earning his 20th points of the half on a one-handed 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.
But the Grizzlies kept coming, eventually pushing the lead to nine points at 54-45 following layups from Xavier Tillman and Williams, forcing another Lakers timeout. The break did little to stem the tide for the Grizzlies as they built the lead to 62-47 as the non-LeBron Lakers were woeful in the first half.
In eventually trailing 65-52 at the half, James shot 9/13 from the field for 23 points while the rest of the Lakers finished 11/37 for 29 points.
The second half only offered the same storyline as the first with the Grizzlies maintaining their double-digit lead with James playing strong and no other Laker following suit. Memphis’ lead grew over 20 points in the third period as the porous Lakers defense offered no resistance on the night.
All this continued to come despite James doing everything in his power to fight back, sitting at 29 points midway through the third period while accounting for half of the team’s field goals in that span. No amount of heroics from James, though, could save Los Angeles on the night as the game quickly got out of hand with Memphis leading 107-83 after three periods.
The fourth quarter featured a heavy dose of garbage time with the Lakers emptying their bench before the midway point of the period. The team offered a spirited comeback late led by Wayne Ellington and Austin Reaves that cut the lead to seven points after a 21-0 run but the clock was never in their favor as they ran out of time before the final buzzer.
The Lakers will have a bit of time to stew over the loss as they will be off until Wednesday when they travel to Sacramento. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. PT.