Lakers survive another close one in Memphis, create last-second turnover

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first_imgMEMPHIS >> Another struggling team had a shot to take down the Lakers — and yet they couldn’t get that final shot off.It was down to literally the last second Saturday night in Memphis when the Lakers forced a turnover for the second straight night, getting possession and the gritty 109-108 win against the upstart Grizzlies for their seventh in a row.It was ugly, and the Lakers (14-2) couldn’t have done it without every one of LeBron James’ 30 points and Anthony Davis’ 22. It’s not exactly a great trend: The last three games — and four of the last five — have been decided by five points or fewer, all against teams with losing records. Led by rookie Ja Morant with 26, Memphis (5-10) was the fiestiest yet of these opponents.The Lakers just have had a little bit more down the stretch so far. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers“They were beating us in all aspects — free throw attempts, fastbreak points, everything,” James said. “We just kept our composure. That’s what we do.”The NBA’s assist leader so far, James temporarily abdicated his distributor role in favor of a more aggressive approach: He took a team high 27 shots, making 14 of them. Coaches and teammates noted, with raised eyebrows, that despite numerous drives to the paint, James shot not a single free throw in the game.The Lakers looked their best at the start of the third quarter after a sluggish start: Fueled by 3-pointers, the team took its first lead of the night on an 11-2 run that was one of the most dramatic of 11 lead changes in the game.A number of Grizzlies gave the Lakers’ vaunted defense problems on Saturday night, but none moreso than Morant, who seemed far more confident than a first-year player on high-speed drives to the rim. It hurt also that Alex Caruso, a steady second rotation presence, could not play after re-aggravating a calf strain. In addition to missing Avery Bradley (right leg hairline fracture), the Lakers were limited in their on-ball options.After one key fourth quarter sequence in which he scored back-to-back baskets, Morant flexed by the baseline, giving a glimpse of the star he may one day become. Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Not long after, James checked back in for the final four minutes to help take back the lead. He and Davis had a 7-0 run to get ahead by four points with 53 seconds remaining.Related Articlescenter_img Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error A costly turnover by Kyle Kuzma led to a lay-up by Morant, but even though James missed a subsequent 3-point attempt that the Grizzlies rebounded, the young Memphis squad couldn’t execute their inbounds play. The result was Jaren Johnson Jr. sliding out of bounds on the attempted pass by Kyle Anderson.Frank Vogel credited Davis, who had five blocks and three steals, for leading the defensive effort.“What he does on the defensive end, just keeps us in it,” he said. “If we don’t have a better second half defensively, we lose this game tonight. For him to get five blocks, just kind of hold the fort down on the defensive end for us was a big part of the win.”The Lakers had complained of a loud morning concert on the FexEx Forum Plaza outside their hotel that kept them from getting their sleep after playing in Oklahoma City the night before. Vogel said he asked for earplugs from the hotel, while James shared his annoyance through Instagram videos and tweets.Perhaps that factored into a slower start, which saw the Grizzlies seize a 14-4 lead in the first quarter and lead by as much as 15 points in the first half. The Lakers perimeter defense was dicey, giving up 10 3-pointers in the first half alone.Still, wins that are eyesores are still wins. Not even James has had a better start through 16 games in his entire 17-year career. Particulary on a back-to-back, the Lakers were relieved, if not proud, to have come through in both, no matter how ugly.“Obviously we’d like to play better on both ends of the floor, and like them to be not as close as they’ve been, but sometimes it goes like that,” Danny Green said. “You need to find a way to win. Low on bodies or energy on a back-to-back, but at the end of the game, we got the stops we needed and the scores we needed.”last_img

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