After missing the playoffs last season, anticipation and enthusiasm for a return to the postseason was palpable for the Lakers and their fanbase. The team didn't disappoint in Game 1 of their first-round series, beating the Memphis Grizzlies 128-112. With the win, the team ensures at least a split before their return to Los Angeles.
In a city of stars, it was Austin Reaves who shined brightest. He was magnificent in the fourth quarter, ending the night with 23 points in his 31 minutes of play.
Rui Hachimura picked a good time to have his best game as a Laker, as he had a game-high 29 points off the bench and was pivotal in the win. The 29-point performance was the most by a Laker reserve since Byron Scott in 1997.
Despite not coming without a major injury scare, Anthony Davis was the best version of himself Sunday afternoon. Davis dominated the interior on both ends, finishing the game with 22 points, 12 rebounds, 7 blocks and 3 steals.
Not sure if you can call it a “feel-out game”, but LeBron James played below his superstar standard. He was passive on the offensive side of the ball settling for jumpers and not converting on the ones he took. He had 21 points and 5 turnovers in the road win.
In one of the key matchups of the series, the Lakers chose to give Jared Vanderbilt the Ja Morant defensive assignment. There is no singular player who can stop Morant, but Vanderbilt and his teammates made him work for everything he got. Unfortunately, an apparent wrist injury ended his night early in the fourth and the severity of the injury is unknown at this time.
Despite some early struggles from the field, the Lakers took control early in this game thanks to some stellar defense by Davis.
With Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke out for Memphis, the Lakers were able to attack the paint more aggressively. Reaves bounced back from his lukewarm performance in the team’s play-in game, Davis was aggressive finishing strong near the cup, and a highlight dunk from James gave the team a five-point lead after 12 minutes.
LEBRON TO THE RACK— NBA (@NBA) April 16, 2023
Lakers lead early in Memphis.
: Live on ABC | Game 1 pic.twitter.com/XTKZpkr6kH
After playing a clean start to the game, the Grizzlies were able to jump right back into this one after a pair of James’ turnovers opened the floodgates.
The Grizzlies not only took the lead but near disaster occurred as Davis went down with an apparent stinger injury, forcing him off the floor and into the locker room. Fortunately, the injury wasn’t severe enough to keep Davis out for the second half.
Davis is available to return, per the Lakers. https://t.co/FnEfZNdeH4— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 16, 2023
Davis was moving gingerly in the opening minutes of the third quarter, but quickly worked himself back into the flow of the game.
He splashed midrange jumpers from the baseline, threw down a dunk and continued to be a deterrent on the defensive end.
AD DOWN THE LANE pic.twitter.com/yOzORBa5CD— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 16, 2023
The star of the second half for the purple and gold however was Rui Hachimura. Not only was he tasked with defending Jaren Jackson Jr while Davis sat, but he caught fire from deep making five of his six attempts from downtown.
The Grizzlies suffered their own injury scare as Morant left the game in the fourth quarter after a collision with Davis. Memphis stayed in the game without their point guard, but for every bucket they made, it was Reaves who had an answer.
With the game on the line, the Lakers turned to Reaves to run the late-game offense, and he delivered. A behind-the-back assist, layup and a pull-up three from Reaves helped deliver the dagger and the win the Lakers' way.
As is the case in the postseason, the game didn't come without some drama. But the Lakers impressively showed composure up and down the roster in their road win.
The team contained Morant, Davis dominated both ends and the role players shined bright on the biggest stage.
It will now be on Memphis to counter. How do they replicate Jackson Jr’s strong game? How do they get Morant better looks? This series is far from over, but the pressure now swings the Grizzlies’ way as losing both home games would be catastrophic.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.