What a duel between LeBron James and Ja Morant! The Lakers have been in control for a long time thanks to a career high from James, but Memphis turns the game in the fourth quarter. Mainly thanks to Morant, who also has a career record.
Memphis Grizzlies (22-14) – Los Angeles Lakers (17-19) 104:99 (BOXSCORE)
Like LeBron, the youngster was very hot from a distance. Both marked personal bests from a distance, the Lakers star sank 8 threes (in 14 attempts) on the way to 37 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists. LeBron, who will turn 37 on Thursday, has never had more triples in one game – he also sank eight threes twice.
The support from teammates was, however, limited. Russell Westbrook (16, 12 assists and 10 rebounds) and Malik Monk (15) were the only other guests in double digits. Far too little came from Carmelo Anthony (5, 1/8 threesome) or Talen Horton-Tucker (4, 2/7 FG), for example.
Mainly to stop Morant. The 22-year-old sank 6/7 long-range throws and topped LeBron in terms of points. His 41 points (13/27 FG, plus 10 rebounds) represented a season high. He had a large share in a 17: 7 run, with which Memphis ended the game and thus completed the comeback after a long time behind.
For the youngster there was a hail of MVP calls from the home fans, and for a long time he was largely on his own. Ultimately, Desmond Bane finished the game with 20 points (6/18 FG), Jaren Jackson Jr. got 15 points.
LeBron starts hot – Lakers lead early
In view of the matchup with Jackson Jr. and Steven Adams under the basket, the Lakers did without a lineup with LeBron as center this time, but Dwight Howard moved into the starting five for Stanley Johnson. The new, old position didn’t change the fact that James felt extremely comfortable right from the start.
Several LeBron threesomes plus one Fadeaway-Bank-Shot helped the Lakers get off to a great start. The king’s third triple made it early at 21:11. Although LA had a little more problems with LeBron on the bench, the guests from Hollywood went into the second section at 30:23.
In the middle of the round, James again led a strong phase for the Lakers. Layup, block against a Morant jumper, then the assist for Westbrook and Purple and Gold pulled up to 13 points – the highest lead of the evening. But then Morant came, with a personal 7-0 run he kept Memphis within striking distance and prevented them from being too late at half-time (48:54).
The home side was extremely dependent on the young franchise star. Across all quarters he was responsible for 16 Grizzlies points in a row. In return, LeBron picked up exactly where he left off before the break. A seamless pull-up threesome restored the double-digit lead – and Morant had to deliver again. The last 3 of his 14 points in the third quarter just before the buzzer were the icing on a 12-3 run by Memphis, which shortened to 78:83.
Morant drives Grizzlies comeback – Lakers lacks the answer
After a minute and a half in the final section, Memphis equalized, in the middle of the half after a floater from Tyus Jones even the first lead since the opening minutes. Nothing came together in the Lakers offense, even LeBron’s previously so sure jumper did not fall. LA stayed almost four minutes without points, the Grizzlies punished that. The strong Morant increased to 99:92.
Three minutes before the end, a long three-pointer from James made it exciting again, but immediately afterwards Westbrook put an open layup in transition only on the ring. On the other side, Morant was a bit limited after a hard crash, but kept his colors in the front. Shortly before the end, LA got the ball at -3, but the chaotic possession ended in a turnover. Memphis made everything clear from the line.