Few punters would have imagined the Grizzlies with a strong lead in the standings ahead of the Lakers as we move closer to mid-season. By winning at home tonight, Memphis consolidated their impressive 4th place in the West, now boasting five wins over their opponents tonight. The latter are no longer very far from being ejected from the Top 8 of the conference …
Carried by a LeBron James still in great shape, and particularly skillful from afar, the visitors nevertheless took the lead for most of the game. The Lakers, who revived Dwight Howard in their five, took control in the first quarter (23-30) and did not let go in the following two periods.
The gap in favor of the Californians climbed to 14 units (66-80) in the dying minutes of the third quarter. It was here that Desmond Bane, struggling with his shooting overall, regained some skill to support a very inspired Ja Morant behind the arc.
His two winning baskets in a row allowed Memphis to take a three-possessions lead (99-92) with four minutes remaining. The defense of the Grizzlies will make the difference to thwart the Lakers in the “money time”.
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
– The Lakers’ missed “money time”. After two bad choices in a row from Russell Westbrook (missed finish and intercepted pass), David Fizdale had to resolve to leave him temporarily five minutes from the end. Author of a new triple-double, he missed the inevitable in transition, three minutes later, his team being led by three points … In addition to these blunders, we must note the defensive efforts of the Grizzlies, like against of Jaren Jackson Jr. on the shot in the corner from Avery Bradley or the heavy defensive streak in stride, with 20 seconds remaining, which led to the interception of a telephoned pass from LeBron James.
– A huge difference to free throws. This is already the fourth time this season that Russell Westbrook, yet very attracted to the circle, does not shoot a free throw. The finding is symptomatic of a Lakers team who only got… eight throws over the entire game. This total contrasts sharply with the Grizzlies 24/29 in this area. Lacking aggressiveness, the Lakers have caused only 11 fouls.
– Ja Morant’s communion with his audience. After three trips in a row, the leader returned to FedExForum for the first time since the criticisms leveled by some fans against him. We felt that the leader wanted to feed on the positive energy of the premises, not hesitating to clap the hands of the spectators in the front row after a marked basket. His audience responded with “MVPs! “
✅ Ja Morant. He scored 25 of his 41 points in the second half, including 14 in the third quarter. After spending a few minutes on the bench at the start of the fourth, he came back with dynamite in his legs since he scored 11 of his team’s last 15 points. A serious contender for the next All-Star Game, he made up for his awkwardness near the circle with an impeccable 6/7 from afar. Another small downside, his six lost balls which could have been expensive in the final.
✅ LeBron James. Sixth game in a row with 31 points or more for the one who celebrates today… his 37 years. Forced to take matters in hand without Anthony Davis, he runs at 35 points, 10 rebounds and 6.5 assists on average on this streak. Unfortunately for him, his Lakers have just lost six out of seven games …
⛔ The Lakers bench. After his big game the day before in Houston, Carmelo Anthony plunged back into awkwardness. His bench partners were not more inspired and their impact on the score was particularly negative. The substitutes for the Grizzlies did not shine much more in attack but Tyus Jones had a very positive impact, as did the French Killian Tillie, author of some “hustle play” noticed in the last quarter.
JA SHINES BEFORE LEBRON
Author of 41 points last night, Ja Morant had scored 40 last October against the same Lakers. He thus became the second player to finish several matches with at least 40 points against LeBron James in the same season. The other player to achieve this, in 2012, is a certain Carmelo Anthony, when he played for the Knicks, while his current teammate was playing for the Heat.
Grizzlies (22-14) : reception of Spurs, Friday.
Lakers (17-19) : Blazers reception, Friday.