Sometimes, the best-laid plans go to waste. The Lakers certainly headed into Memphis in Game 5 ready and prepared to close out the Grizzlies, but the hosts had plans of their own to extend the series.
Despite some moments, in particular a strong start to the third quarter, the Lakers were undone on Wednesday, falling to the Grizzlies 116-99.
“Obviously, they don’t want to go home,” Austin Reaves said. “They don’t want to get beat in the series as much as we want to win the series. They’re all competitors over there. They did come out with an urgency and fire and relied on their home fans to build them up, bring them up. They played a good game.”
Now, the Lakers head back home to Southern California for the biggest game of the season. Not only is it a closeout game, it’s the chance for the Lakers to finish the series at home before a potential Game 7 back in Memphis.
“I think it’s on both teams,” Anthony Davis said when asked if the pressure is on the Lakers. “We’re looking to close the series, which the closeout game is always the toughest game because the other team have pressure as well to not want to go home. So I think the pressure is on both teams. Obviously, we’re looking not to come back here for a Game 7. Anything can happen in a Game 7, who knows? We’re still in control right now and we’ve got to take care of business on Friday.”
So far in the postseason, the Lakers are unbeaten with a play-in win over the Timberwolves and a pair of victories over Memphis in Games 3 and 4. The Lakers have done a great job protecting their home court and that’s the message shared by multiple members after Wednesday’s loss.
“Protecting our home court. Coming out hitting first,” Jarred Vanderbilt said. “I feel like they kind of hit first today. I feel like they kind of hit first today. I feel like they’ll be our biggest thing, just throwing the first punch, being the more physical and more aggressive team to start the game. Just setting that tone early. I feel like we kind of eased into the game so just continue to be the aggressor.
“Just protect home, simple as that,” D’Angelo Russell added. “I think whatever you got to do to prepare yourself individually, physically and mentally — we have a few days off to prepare to that one to give it all we got — just get it done. I think that should be the motive, that should be the energy, that should be where our minds are. Just get it done.”
It’ll be a pressure-packed contest, but one with the deck stacked against the Grizzlies. The Lakers saw what it’s like to face a desperate team at home in front of a raucous crowd and can replicate that now themselves. What awaits in Game 6 is surely set to be two very desperate teams viewing their seasons on the line.
“It’s all pressure, obviously,” Russell said. “You don’t want to lose, you don’t want to leave like that. Obviously, they want to come back here and give themselves a chance. It’s pressure everywhere. But to be in a position to control our own narrative and go back home is something we’d rather be.”
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