James, Lakers hold off Memphis in overtime, take commanding 3-1 series lead
If nothing else, the Lakers always have a certain 38-year-old on their side.
LeBron James won them a playoff game in almost too many ways to name, pushing, prodding and cajoling the Lakers to a 117-111 overtime victory Monday over the Memphis Grizzlies in front of a raucous crowd at Crypto.com Arena.
James scored 22 points, added 20 rebounds and converted two memorable scores late in the game to give the Lakers a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Lakers can clinch the first-round match-up Wednesday in Memphis.
The play of the game was James blowing past new nemesis Dillon Brooks and converting a runner down the left side to provide a 113-108 lead with 29.1 seconds left in overtime.
James was plenty animated after the play, flexing and yelling toward the crowd.
And to think Brooks, who was badly exposed on the play, called James “old” before the series began. Oops.
“I don’t know how I found the legs, honestly,” James said after playing 45 minutes. “I just tried to do my part.”
James helped send the game to overtime with a high-arcing layup over shot-blocker Jaren Jackson Jr. with 0.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter, tying the score at 104-104.
“He’s nothing short of amazing. It doesn’t surprise me,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “We watch him every day to see how he prepares.”
On a night where Anthony Davis had a subpar game (12 points in 42 minutes), the Lakers needed everything they got from James.
In fact, James took two charges on the night, including a late fourth-quarter one from high-flying Memphis guard Ja Morant.
James also became the oldest player in NBA history with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a playoff game.
“I’ve done some pretty cool things in my career. I’ve never done a 20 and 20,” James said. “That was pretty cool, I guess.”
The Lakers led by 15 in the second quarter thanks to 11 first-half points from Jarred Vanderbilt. But then they started fading as the Grizzlies sliced the lead to only two at halftime.
Two first-half stats stood out: Anthony Davis missed all five of his shots and D’Angelo Russel scored only two points. Ouch.
The Lakers were also hurt in a literal sense when Davis landed off-balance after missing a layup in the second quarter. Davis drew some contact from Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, slid toward the basket and quickly grabbed his right hip.
Davis had only four points after the third quarter, missing seven of eight shots as Memphis led by two.
But then came the Lakers’ turnaround. It wasn’t just James who led the charge.
Russell came into the game shooting only 29% in the post-season, including the Lakers’ play-in tournament victory over Minnesota. He struggled again Monday until a big run late in the game.
Russell made three three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help erase a seven-point Memphis lead.
“I think it just kind of happened, being in the right place at the right time,” said Russell, who scored 17 points before fouling out.
The electrifying Morant had trouble scoring for Memphis, missing 16 of 24 shots and totaling only 19 points. He scored only three points after the third quarter.
His game-winning attempt was blocked by Davis above the free-throw line as time expired in the fourth quarter.
With Morant struggling, Desmond Bane led Memphis with 36 points.
The Lakers, tired yet triumphant Monday, head to Memphis for a quick turnaround game. It could be the last one in this series.
“The close-out games is always the hardest of the series,” James said. “We better be ready for it and I think we will.”