Lakers advance to conference semifinals

The Lakers are back in the Western Conference semifinals for the first time since 2020 after clinching first series at home since 2012.

LOS ANGELES — You know the Lakers were serious when Jack Nicholson is at the game.

After an extremely up-and-down regular season that saw the Lakers start out 2-10, have a ridiculous roster overhaul, endure injuries to their two all-stars, be below .500 for most of the season, and squeeze into and winning the play-in game, the Lakers are one of the final 8 teams in the NBA Playoffs. The Lakers emphatically eliminated the Memphis Grizzlies, 125-85.

It was the most dominant performance we’ve seen the Lakers have all season. It was so dominant that the Grizzlies waved the white flag with 10 minutes left and LeBron James and Anthony Davis actually sat out a rare fourth quarter.

I had mentioned in the preview that whoever won the first quarter in each game of this series would go on to win. Well, after the Lakers got down early, D’Angelo Russell got off to the best start of his series. He scored 10 points in the first 12 minutes as the Lakers jumped on Memphis, 31-20.

LeBron James vowed to be better and he was by miles. He was making jumpers, lay-ups… and this wicked reverse jam:

Anthony Davis also altered nearly every shot in the paint. He would have a double-double at the end of the first half. The Lakers led, 59-42, as the Grizzlies couldn’t have anything.

After a three by Ja Morant to start out the second half, D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt together made three straight threes to pretty much knock the Grizzlies out.

And to add insult to injury, Anthony Davis did this to the Defensive Player of the Year award-winner, Jaren Jackson Jr.

That was bullying. The Lakers didn’t let up all the way until the final buzzer. Darvin Ham actually kept a tight 8-man rotation (the starters, Rui Hachimura, Wenyen Gabriel, and Dennis Schröder) until three minutes into the fourth quarter, right after Memphis tapped out.

First of all, there’s a reason the Grizzlies finished second. The problem was that they came into this series with a lot of injured players. No Steven Adams. No Brandon Clarke. No Luke Kennard in Game 6. It was too much to overcome and they had no match against Anthony Davis. It didn’t help that their supporting cast couldn’t be of much help offensively.

As for the Lakers, did they put on a show or what? D’Angelo Russell easily had his best game of the series. Anthony Davis was dominant defensively all series. LeBron James said he was going to be better and he was. Jarred Vanderbilt provided some surprise offense and made the Grizzlies pay. Austin Reaves was as steady as they come. Rui Hachimura provided an extra boost from the bench. Even Wenyen Gabriel gave great minutes in this clinching game. The Lakers are looking as legit as ever.

Obviously, the job is far from over. But not sure most people saw the Lakers going into the Western Semifinals, especially after what they went through this season. But for now, they’re going to get their rest. They’ll wait for the Kings and Warriors to beat each other up in Game 7. And then we’ll have a preview of the next series on Tuesday.

By the way, as for individual stats? D’Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 31 points. LeBron James ended the night with 22 points. Anthony Davis was a force with 16 points, 14 boards, and 5 blocks. For the Grizzlies, Santi Aldama led the team with 16 points. Desmond Bane had 15, Jaren Jackson Jr. had 14 points, and Ja Morant was limited to 10 off 3 of 16 shooting.

The bear is going to hibernate for a bit. Be careful not to poke him.