While the Lakers took control of the series against the Grizzlies on Monday with their Game 4 win to move up 3-1, they’re also well aware that the series is not over. The Lakers will have three shots to end the series, starting with a road trip to Memphis and including potentially another home game.
As the old adage goes, the close out game is the toughest one to win with the opponent in complete desperation mode to save their season, putting everything on the line. For the Lakers this season, that’s going to include a trip to what was statistically the toughest venue to win for road opponents this regular season in Memphis.
“It’s a desperate team,” Anthony Davis said after Game 4. “They play with a lot of energy, a lot of effort, make plays. That environment is very hostile. They support their team very well. We know that we can win there. We’ve done it. Closeout games are always the toughest, especially when you’re on the road.
“So, our mindset, our attention to detail has to be ultra-locked in. We can’t go in and have a slow start or mess around with the game thinking we’ll be coming back here for a Game 6. We did what we’re supposed to do at home, was able to steal one in Memphis in Game 1 so, now, we have to come in with a defensive mindset and take it one possession at a time.”
Prior to traveling to Memphis on Tuesday, Darvin Ham spoke to the media and reiterated many of the same points as Davis did.
“We gotta go out and meet force w/ force. Do the intangible things, the little things…” - Darvin on the challenges of closing out a series & in this case on the rd.— Allie Clifton (@RealAClifton) April 25, 2023
Says it going to be a “dog fight..” #Lakers
For the majority of this series, the Lakers have been in control. Save for a spare quarter here or a stretch there, the Lakers have been the team in control more often than not. Now, that means little in the grand scheme of things but it is reason for optimism that they can close it out in Memphis on Wednesday.
But the Lakers are going to face their stiffest test yet, almost certainly. Given the tests they’ve passed so far this season and postseason, though, there’s no reason to believe this can’t be the next on the list.
It will also certainly help to have LeBron James alongside them. Wednesday will be the 51st close out game of his career and he’s averaging 28.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists while shooting 49% from the field. No one is more experienced in this types of games, and the Lakers will rely on him to get them over the line once more.
“The closeout game is always the hardest game in the series,” LeBron James said. “It’s the most tiring one. It’s the most brutal one and we better be ready for it and I think we’ll be ready for it.”
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