The Lakers headed into Wednesday night’s Game 2 against the Grizzlies with a great opportunity to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series. With Ja Morant ruled out before the game, an undermanned Memphis team was looking to reverse their fortunes from Game 1 against a Lakers side that was rolling.
The desperation from the Grizzlies was apparent, though, with their postseason fate on the line. Memphis came out the aggressor early and rode that strong first quarter to a victory, leveling the series at 1-1.
As frustrating a loss as it was for the Lakers, the team was not overreacting to it post-game.
“At the end of the day, we understand what a series is all about,” LeBron James said. “It’s not the first to one win or two, it’s the first to four. We just have to prepare for each and every game. Every game is it’s own entity. We have to prepare for that challenge. I feel like we were prepared tonight, we just didn’t execute as well as we did in Game 1 for as close to 48 minutes (as possible). They made adjustments, we made adjustments and you tip your hat to them. They played a whale of a game tonight.”
Head coach Darvin Ham echoed that sentiment, noting the team expected it to be a grind of a series.
“I’m pretty sure if this was the NCAA Tournament, my mood would be a lot different,” Ham said. “But it’s is the first to four, not the first to one or two or three. We anticipated a really grueling series. This team, again, there’s a reason why they are who they are. They have a lot of pride, a high, high, elite competitive spirit, an extremely talented roster. We knew we were going to have our hands full with this match-up.”
In discussing the potential opportunity squandered by the Lakers on Wednesday, the Grizzlies' point of view must also be taken into account. While the Lakers would have had a stranglehold on the series with a win, the Grizzlies were well aware their season was on the line in Game 2. A loss to the Lakers before heading to Los Angeles would have put them in dire straits.
And so, for perhaps the first time in months after fighting for their own playoff lives for so long, the Lakers entered a contest as the less desperate side. The foot was off the throttle just long enough for the Grizzlies to seize control in the contest and keep their season alive.
Ultimately, the Lakers accomplished their overall mission of taking a game off the Grizzlies in Memphis, but LeBron was adamant to say the team is not resting on those laurels heading back home.
“It’s a 1-1 series,” LeBron said. “Both teams are tied. Both teams feel like they can win on the opponent’s floor. It gives us no comfort that we’re going home, and we shouldn’t feel comfortable going home with a 1-1 tie.
“Game 3 is the most important game of the series, and if we’re not uncomfortable going into that game, they can very easily come into our home court and take the series back."
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