Coming in, Friday’s game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies looked like a mismatch. Memphis was on an 11-game winning streak and boasted the NBA’s best defensive rating, as well as a young, long and feisty roster.
It went up by 13 late in the third quarter, and even worse, it killed the Lakers in the paint by outrebounding them 63-47, which included a whopping 24 offensive rebounds, while holding them to just 40.9 percent shooting.
A recipe for disaster as far as the Lakers were concerned, right?
LeBron James and crew scratched and clawed down the stretch and pecked away at the Grizzlies’ lead, and by making more big plays, LA somehow came out on top, 122-121.
Memphis killed itself by going just 26-of-40 from the free throw line, while Ja Morant was only 9-of-29 and committed five turnovers.
After losing three close games at home in painful and frustrating fashion, the Lakers finally won one, against the NBA’s hottest team to boot.
James was not efficient for the second game in a row. He looked tired down the stretch, which could be the result of having to play heavy minutes on a consistent basis in his 20th season.
He was 8-of-21 from the field, scoring 23 points to go along with nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
Troy Brown Jr.: C
Brown made two 3-pointers during the Lakers’ comeback in the fourth quarter, but overall he struggled, going 3-of-12 from the field (10 of his shot attempts were from downtown). He finished with 11 points, five rebounds and one blocked shot in 28 minutes.
Thomas Bryant: B-
Bryant’s level of play has fallen off in recent games. He is not scoring at or near the rim with nearly as much regularity, and for some reason, his aggression has almost disappeared.
He was 3-of-8 on Friday, giving him eight points along with seven boards, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot in 22 minutes, but he spent much of the night in foul trouble.
Patrick Beverley: B/B+
Beverley went 3-of-6 overall and 2-of-5 from beyond the arc, and he helped put the clamps on Morant who, other than the third quarter, had an uncharacteristically bad game.
Dennis Schroder: B+
Statistically, Schroder struggled, as he shot 4-of-11, but he had the play of the game.
Down 120-119 with 13.2 seconds left, the Lakers needed to foul Memphis as it inbounded the ball. Instead, Schroder came from the blind side of Desmond Bane, stole the ball from him and took it all the way for a layup and the foul. Schroder converted the free throw to put A up 122-120.
Right before that steal, he had made two free throws after getting fouled, and he converted two more with 1:09 remaining.
The Garman native finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and one block.
Wenyen Gabriel: B-
Gabriel was unable to convert his usual number of paint buckets because of the Grizzlies’ shot blockers, including Jaren Jackson Jr., who had four rejections. Gabriel had five points and five rebounds in 22 minutes.
Russell Westbrook: A/A+
Westbrook had a season-high 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting, to go along with five rebounds, six assists and a block. He has been on a tear lately, and it continued against the Grizzlies.
In the fourth quarter, he came up big with 11 points. This is the Westbrook the Lakers thought they were getting when they traded lots of assets to get him in the summer of 2021.
Kendrick Nunn: B-
Nunn gave the Lakers a lift off the bench with 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting and five rebounds in 21 minutes. He keeps reminding everyone that he is still a good player whenever he is given meaningful minutes.
Max Christie B
The rookie played 14 minutes and hit his only shot attempt for a 3-pointer while grabbing a rebound and notching an assist.
Juan Toscano-Anderson: Incomplete
Toscano-Anderson got 10 minutes of playing time and missed his one shot attempt, but he did get to the free throw line twice, making 3-of-4 foul shots and adding a rebound and assist.