Grizzlies jump on Lakers early, tie series at 1-1

Lakers and Grizzlies resume their series in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Well, that was predictable, wasn’t it?

The Lakers came out flat and they never really got back into it after they went under a double-digit deficit. Memphis took advantage and had an admirable performance as they took the split from Los Angeles, 103-93.

Memphis was without Ja Morant but they proved how much heart they had in this game. Maybe the Lakers underestimated them. Maybe the Lakers thought they could waltz in and turn the switch on whenever they wanted to. But the fact was that they weren’t engaged at the start and it bit them. The Grizzlies knew they had their backs against the wall and they showed it in their play.

I said in my preview that…

“Jaren Jackson, Jr. is the newly-minted Defensive Player of the Year and he had quite the game last Sunday with 31 points. Desmond Bane still found his way to 22 points but he didn’t shoot particularly well. And they’ll need more from everyone’s best friend, Dillon Brooks, as well as Morant’s back-up, Tyus Jones. Xavier Tillman, who is starting in place of Adams, was decidedly a non-factor in Game 1. I expect him to be more involved on Wednesday night.”

Boy, was Xavier Tillman a huge factor. Tillman scored 6 of the first 10 Memphis points. And then a quick backbreaking sequence happened when Luke Kennard stole the ball after a David Roddy three. Kennard was fouled while making a three. He converted the free throw and, combined with the technical foul from the defensive three-second call from Anthony Davis, Memphis scored 8 quick points in a game where scoring was much more of a premium.

While Davis did block 5 shots in the first half, the Lakers could not get it going offensively. They were down, 59-44, going into the halftime break.

And it got even worse for a bit. Tillman made a rare three to put Memphis up 20 points.

Lakers got the ball to LeBron James and he meticulously worked on the post. Slowing the pace down worked for a while for the Lakers; they went on a 17-3 run with Bron doing his thing. Still, threes continued to go down for Memphis and they carried a 12-point lead into the fourth.

They kept going back to LeBron inside. A lay-up cut the deficit to 94-88 with three minutes left. But Desmond Bane free throws followed by a huge three by Dillon Brooks ensured that the Grizz wouldn’t be swept in FedEx Forum. The teams are going back to Los Angeles tied at a game apiece.

Like I said, the Lakers didn’t come out with a sense of urgency so they had to climb the hill the entire game. The Grizz got their guys going immediately and attacked the paint often (Memphis had an early advantage even though the teams ended up being tied with 50 points each in the paint). The Lakers ended up shooting .412 but they were mostly in the low-to-mid-30s in the first half. Anthony Davis couldn’t get it going; we know he had been dominant throughout his games against Memphis. D’Angelo Russell was horrid from the field as well.

And the grit and hustle that Memphis was known for showed in this game. The frontcourt by these young bears was depleted by injuries but they still had Jaren Jackson Jr. and Xavier Tillman eating those boards up. They actually outrebounded the Lakers by two. Memphis did an outstanding job defending Davis (the Lakers, really) and L.A. never had a chance to make it a game.

LeBron James finished the game with 28 points and 12 rebounds. The Grizzlies weren’t daring Rui Hachimura anymore after a while; he scored 20 points but none in the fourth quarter. Anthony Davis only shot 4 for 14 and had 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocks (all 5 blocks were in the first half). Austin Reaves ended with a modest 12 points while D’Angelo Russell has to shoot better than 2 for 11 (5 points).

Xavier Tillman was the man and led the Grizzlies with 22 points and 13 rebounds (he only had two points in the first game). Jaren Jackson, Jr. got going late and finished with 18 points, 9 rebounds, and three blocks. Desmond Bane cooled off in the second half but his early output helped the Grizz stay on top. He ended with 17 points.

The good news for the Lakers is that they did steal a game on the road so they have the home court advantage. Maybe being buoyed by the hometown crowd will help energize them from the start. Meanwhile, Memphis needed this game and it certainly bought Ja Morant time to heal up. Maybe he’ll be ready for Game 3 and if that’s the case, he’ll obviously be a huge boost for Memphis.

The teams meet again for Game 3 at Crypto on Saturday. And the Lakers did what they needed to do in Tennessee. Take them to another place!

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