The vast, vast majority of Lakers fans waited ten very long years for a sold out Staples/Crypto.com Center. When that moment arrived on Saturday, the Lakers treated them to history.
Fueled by a raucous crowd, the Lakers throttled the Grizzlies and led 35-9 after the opening quarter, leading the way to a fairly comfortable win. The 26-point lead after the first quarter was tied for the biggest in NBA history and just the third time a team has led by 26 heading into the second period.
The nine points scored by Memphis were the fewest in a quarter by a Lakers opponent since the Rockets in 2004. More impressively, it was the fewest point total of any team in any quarter in the NBA this season.
It was a confluence of events that led to the incredible quarter, from a Lakers team rolling to a Grizzlies team that had slotted perfectly into the villain role to further amp up the crowd. But one of the biggest factors was the Lakers themselves focusing on having a better start after the slow one in Memphis in Game 2.
“Last game, I think they got out to a great start and we kind of won the battle after that,” D’Angelo Russell said postgame. “But the start they got out to, it had us swimming upstream from that point on. We wanted to get out to a good start and control our own flow from there.”
After stealing Game 1 of the series, the Lakers came out in Game 2 and fell behind 30-19 heading into the second period. From there, as D’Lo noted, the two teams largely played even the remainder of the game.
Russell’s fingerprints were all over the first quarter in Game 3. He scored eight points, half of those coming on a 4-point play, and dished out three assists as well. One of those went to Anthony Davis as the Lakers ran a healthy dose of high ball screens involving D’Lo and Anthony Davis.
“The more reps we get, the better, the more comfortable (we get),“ Russell said of him and Davis. “He’s played with a lot of players, a lot of guards, obviously, so he’s probably seen everything. So, for myself, just trying to get those reps in to make it a smooth transition.”
With the help of Russell, AD got activated early, scoring eight points with eight rebounds in the opening frame. It was the third quarter where Davis asserted his dominance though. Coming out of the locker room, Davis tallied 15 points with four rebounds to keep the Grizzlies at bay.
“He just dominated the game from every aspect,” Russell said of AD’s third quarter. “Rebounding, scoring, defensively, he just controlled the game, honestly. When he’s playing that well and dominating the game, it’s easy to follow that.”
The Lakers set a clear tone out of the gate on Saturday, then did something similar out of the locker room to kick off each half strong. It’s a pattern they’d do well to follow moving forward if for no other reason than to avoid the pitfalls of Game 2.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.