In beating the Memphis Grizzlies 120-91, the Lakers have now won 3 straight games to move their record up to 3-1. The final score to this game is both right on and a little deceiving. The Grizzlies led this game well into the 2nd quarter and only trailed by 2 at halftime. Then, with a little under 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Lakers used a 22-0 run to take total control of the game and coasted to the win in the final frame.
As I wrote in my game preview, this was a game the Lakers should win — which made me nervous. The Grizz are young and not expected to be very good this year. That said, they also have some talent and specific personnel that could make things a little tricky for the Lakers. I wanted LA to come out strong early in order to take control and set the tone of the game. That, of course, did not happen. They did exactly that in the 3rd quarter however, and in what is become a little bit of a trend, turned the game after halftime to seize control and not look back.
While that turnaround could easily be the story of the game, Anthony Davis’ performance needs to take center stage here. Davis played down reports of a shoulder injury after Sunday’s win, but was clearly laboring this game after bumping it early — even heading to the lockerroom at one point to receive treatment. Which makes his performance all the more wild, really.
Davis had 40 points and 20 rebounds in only 31 minutes of play. Let that sink in. He shot 27 FT’s and made 26(!) of them. He drew 15 fouls. Of his 20 rebounds, 8 were on the offensive glass. He only shot 7-17 from the field, but was 7-15 on 2-point shots and did most of his damage right at the basket. In other words, Davis was a monster in the the restricted area and was aggressive all night in looking to get to the paint. And, on countless possessions, if he couldn’t get a shot up it was because he got fouled beforehand. Just a dominant, dominant performance.
The Lakers do not win this game without Davis. That, really, is the story of the contest. There are other points to make, but those will come later. For now, it’s best to simply appreciate Davis for his effort and his outsized contribution to a victory. He was that good.
Speaking of more to say, it’s not a recap of the game without some additional notes. So, here those are…
- LeBron finished the game with 23 points and 8 assists on 8-15 shooting. This is, basically, a ho-hum stat line night from him, but what stood out to me was that A). he’s really finding moments of the game to “load manage” while on the floor and B). when he sees an opportunity to turn it on and/or get some numbers, he still has that gear to go get it. I thought his defensive effort was mostly good throughout, but on offense he was picking and choosing his spots as much as I can remember over the last season plus he’s been in Los Angeles. Note, I’m not critiquing LeBron for this at all. No one understands the grind of a long season more than him and no one understands how to ramp up at the right pace in order to be ready for the post season. I trust him like I trust few other players in the league to get this part of the equation right. It’s more just me sort of marveling at his ability to still find that gear, even if only for a 4-6 minute stretch, where he can really put his imprint on the game to turn things in his team’s favor.
- Second straight game where I feel like we really need to credit KCP for his effort defensively. He worked really hard off the ball, both as a chaser and in rotations, and deserves some recognition for that. He also again hit some shots (13 points, 6-11 shooting) and even dished a few assists. I know he’s still going to make some choices on plays that are going to have fans frustrated, but if he continues to play hard defensively and can score enough to take advantage of lax defense, he’s going to earn his minutes.
- The Lakers only hit 7 of their 26 shots from deep and after 4 games are only shooting 33.6% from behind the arc — 17th in the NBA. I’m not necessarily concerned about the Lakers shooting, but it’s something to keep an eye on. I’d love for them to hover around the top 10 in the NBA in percentage, especially since I do not expect them to be anywhere near the top 10 in the league in attempts. If you’re not going to shoot it a lot, please hit the ones you do shoot.
- Random LeBron stat that may only interest me: LeBron is shooting 88% on FT’s through 4 games. He was only 5-7 vs. the Grizz, but he’s been much better than that in this young season. He’s been much more deliberate and patient in his routine than last season and I think that’s showing up in the results.
- Player A: 10 points, 5-7 shooting, 9 rebounds, +7 in the boxscore.
- Player B: 2 points, 1-2 shooting, 5 rebounds, +22 in the boxscore.
- Player A is JaVale, Player B is Dwight. I’ll have more to say on this another time, but the plus/minus stat tells the story of who was better vs. Memphis much more than the counting stats do.
- Avery Bradley played his typical hard-nosed defense and had a couple of standout possessions on rookie Ja Morant. He also had 12 points on 5-9 shooting. I’ve said it before, but will say it again: when Bradley shoots well, the Lakers are going to be hard to beat assuming most other players play to their normal standard. Him making shots just makes it super difficult to hide lesser defensive players and his own defense is almost always going to have a net positive impact for this team. So, if he’s hitting shots/scoring well, the Lakers are just that much more dangerous.
- I’ll end this all with a totally ridiculous stat: In the 3rd quarter, Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard were on the floor for 6 minutes together. During those 6 minutes the Lakers had an Offensive Rating of 157.1 and a Defensive Rating of 0.0.
Have a good one, ya’ll.