The Los Angeles Lakers have LeBron James. They have Anthony Davis. And, crucially, they have a real supporting cast.
After spending much of the regular season in a dysfunctional state, the Lakers were a complete team on Friday as they finished off the Memphis Grizzlies in their first-round series with a 125-85 win in Game 6. They will advance to face the winner between the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors, who play a Game 7 on Sunday.
Unlike their comically dominant first-quarter performance in Game 3, the Lakers’ stomping of Memphis developed steadily this time, going from an 11-point lead at the end of the first quarter to a 17-point lead at halftime to 33 points at the end of the third. The benchwarmers were put in with nine minutes left in the fourth.
The Grizzlies once again looked lost on offense, but much of that was thanks to Davis. The Lakers big man had his best defensive game of the series, posting five blocks and leading an interior defense that held the Memphis starters to 25.7% shooting on 2-pointers.
Davis, who also posted 16 points and 14 rebounds, was great. James, who had 22 points, six assists and five rebounds, was good in his usual number of ways. What turned the game into an uncompetitive blowout, though, was the supporting cast the Lakers strengthened at the deadline.
So much has been made about how different the Lakers have looked since they exchanged Russell Westbrook for role players, having gone 17-9 after the trade deadline, and that difference was once again apparent Friday, mostly in the form of 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting from D’Angelo Russell.
So the Lakers have their two stars healthy and a good supporting cast, which they haven’t had since they won the NBA championship in 2020. That shouldn’t be welcome news for the West.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies. What else is there to say?
The team that barked so much even in defeat against the Warriors last postseason and entered the playoffs as the West’s No. 2 seed looked tired and muzzled. Yes, they were missing the perpetually underrated Steven Adams, but they had Ja Morant (10 points on 3-of-16 shooting) and Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. (14 points on 3-of-12 shooting) and, unfortunately, the cohesion of a lottery team.
It was a trying season with Morant’s reported off-court transgressions and season-ending injuries to Adams and Brandon Clarke, but when it all ends like this, it’s a “look in the mirror” moment.
And in case you were curious, Dillon Brooks had 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting. He didn’t have much to say about it after the game.