LeBron James and the Lakers didn’t make it easy, but they survived a wild and ugly Game 4 matchup Monday night in Los Angeles against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Lakers surged ahead in overtime to beat the Grizzlies, 117-111, in their opening-round playoff series. That gave L.A. a 3-1 series lead, and pushed the Grizzlies to the brink of elimination headed into Wednesday’s Game 5 in Memphis (7:30 p.m., TNT). The Lakers haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs since their title run inside the COVID-19 bubble in 2020.
The Lakers, after opening the extra period on a 5-2 burst, took a three-point lead after Anthony Davis tipped-in a missed bucket at the rim. Then, after a stop at the other end, James attacked the rim and made a layup through a Dillon Brooks foul to put the Lakers up by five with 28 seconds left.
A stop at the other end sealed the six-point win for the Lakers.
James led Los Angeles with 22 points, 20 rebounds and 7 assists. He’s the first Lakers player to record at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a playoff game since Shaquille O’Neal did in 2004.
“He understands the timing of everything,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said of James, via NBA reporter Mark Medina. “The known of what happened yesterday and the unknown of tomorrow, it makes him even more entrenched in today and to the moment. All of his travels, all of the phenomenal things he’s accomplished, he still has that passion and that grit to want to be on top and want to put his team in position the right way to be successful. That’s what you saw … That’s just who he’s been his entire career.”
While the overtime finish was impressive, it was the wild sequence to end regulation that got them there in the first place.
Lakers force overtime after wild final 10 seconds
The Grizzlies looked like they had it won late at Crypto.com Arena.
Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. came up with a big block on Rui Hachimura, which sparked a fast break and sent Ja Morant running the other way. Morant then dished it to Desmond Bane, who layed it in to put Memphis up two with 6.1 seconds left on the clock.
That, though, was when James took over. James, after catching the inbounds pass, drove straight to the rim and responded with a layup of his own over Jackson to tie the game.
That bucket was James’ first in six tries in the fourth quarter.
The Grizzlies got one last shot at a winner on the other end, but Davis rejected Morant’s final shot.
The Lakers should have rolled to an easy win after their first-half showing. They pushed ahead to a 14-point lead early in the second quarter, and the Grizzlies looked completely out of sync. Yet Memphis got it together just before half, and ended the period on a 14-1 run capped by a Bane 3-pointer just before the buzzer. That cut the Lakers’ lead to two points.
The Grizzlies kept right in it through the third quarter, too, and Morant ended the period with a buzzer-beating dunk to put them up by two again.
The Lakers’ offense was struggling. Davis had just two points at halftime after shooting 0 for 5 from the field, and Jarred Vanderbilt was their leading scorer through most of the third quarter.
But D’Angelo Russell went on a quick burst in the fourth, drilling three straight 3-pointers to keep the Lakers in it and tied things up late. That led to the ridiculous final sequence and the extra period.
Bane led the Grizzlies with 36 points and 7 rebounds while shooting 13 of 29 from the field. Morant added 19 points and 7 assists, and Jackson finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Austin Reaves led the Lakers in scoring with 23 points after he shot 7 of 16 from the field. Russell finished with 17 points, and Vanderbilt dropped 15. Davis, after struggling early, ended the day with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys for the postseason, I understand that,” James said on TNT. “It’s my job to make sure that they stay even-keeled and understand that one game is not going to define the whole series, but we have to be better I want everybody to be comfortable when we go out on the floor and just play free. Let me worry about the Xs and Os and the technical things and all the other stuff. I can do that.”