After going on a 7-2 run to end the third quarter, Lakers forward LeBron James began to hype up the crowd that would have been in the Staples Center, pointing at empty seats as he ran towards the huddle. James noted how he was imagining Lakers fans in the multitude of vacant seats.
“It’s not the same without them;[I] miss them, miss our fans a lot,” he said. “There was a lot of momentum plays that happen in the game where you know if a team calls time out or at the end of the quarter and you know the fans are gonna be up.”
The Lakers took their time to strike at the right time, revving up their offense late in the second half to win 115-105 over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Forward Anthony Davis returned after a two-game absence to score 35 points; forward Kyle Kuzma grabbed 10 rebounds to complement his 20 points. Memphis guard Grayson Allen led the plucky squad with 23 points and center Jonas Valanciunas made eight rebounds. Three Grizzlies scored over 20 points each in the bout.
Kuzma was 8-14 from the field, Davis explained how he is good for the reigning champions.
“He’s grown, his playmaking is better, his catch-and-shoot has been better,” Davis said. “His value for our team has grown from even the beginning of last year to now and he’s making huge plays for us.”
The Grizzlies struck fast, scoring 22 points in the first six minutes. As the Lakers reserves began their rally from a 20-point deficit. While the Lakers made defensive stops and executed well form the free-throw line, the Lakers were behind 16-31 at the end of the first quarter.
The reigning champs attacked the paint to create a six point run early in the second phase. Yet, the Grizzlies scoring pace never erred, especially from the three-point line. Valanciunas let the scoring efforts and Memphis maintained a physical brand of defense.
The Lakers lost 20 points from turnovers and was shooting at 41.5 percent. Memphis outrebounded the Lakers 23-29. According to Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, the team knows not to panic in light of a serious deficit.
“We prepare our guys to understand how much pressure this team plays with defensively,” Vogel said. “It’s gonna take a little bit of time to feel out what [Memphis’] defensive style is.”
Kuzma scored nine of his 20 points in the first half. Despite of his competitive offensive performance, Kuzma hangs his hat on grabbing boards.
“I just try to find ways to bring energy to the game,” he said. “I’m trying to become a great defender, that’s what I mark my basis on.”
Guard Dennis Schröder had foul trouble in the third. Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol created a seven-point run. Memphis stopped scoring for two minutes, allowing the Lakers to add on five more points. Free-throws aided the Purple and Gold in closing their deficit.
James created a 7-2 run in the final seconds of the third quarter to give the Lakers a five-point lead.
Harrell was sidelined with an injury and did not return to the game. Davis and Kuzma extended the Lakers lead with buckets, giving the Lakers a 15-point lead. Allen did not back down, landing half of his shot attempts in the final phase alone.
“[Allen] is playing with a lot of confidence, it doesn’t matter what his role is, he knows to go out there and make the right play,” said Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins. “He’s been a beneficiary to a lot of drive-and-kick, really proud of the shot-making ability.”
James ultimately scored 28 points and eight assists and Harrell scored 14 points. The Lakers will now travel to battle the Denver Nuggets on February 14 at 7:00P.M.