March 7, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Lakers wake up in time: Five takeaways from win over Grizzlies

After LeBron James swished home a buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter, he paraded around the edges of the court, pointing into the empty Staples Center seats. He put his hands in the air to call for noise, the person with his hands on the volume switch for “noise” sensing the cue.

Then after a turnaround jumper made the slow-moving Kyle Anderson quickly fall out of position, James bounced to the Lakers’ bench during the ensuing timeout, rocking back and forth, energy pulsing through his veins.

It was a different look for what could’ve been the same-old story — the Lakers sleepwalking from the opening tip and eking out a win just like they did in the previous three games.

Highlights from the Lakers’ 115-105 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

This time, backed by James and Anthony Davis, there would be no overtime, their energy and execution too much for the feisty Grizzlies in a 115-105 victory Friday at Staples Center, the team’s league-best seventh win in a row.

Davis returned from a two-game absence to score 35 and James finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in the win. It was the first time since in the last week they won without needing at least one overtime.

The little things

As the Lakers mounted their comeback in the third quarter, a number of factors were obvious — mainly the play of super-duper stars James and Davis.

But the little things the Lakers did in the quarter were just as important as the two best players on the court doing the kinds of things you’d expect the two best players to do. There was Marc Gasol, engaging with Memphis center Jonas Valanciunas, fighting to keep him off the glass to trigger the Lakers’ transition offense.

Point guard Dennis Schroder, who had been fighting off foul trouble for most of the game, delivered two pin-point entry passes into the post, one for Davis and one for James. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stole an in-bounds pass after a made bucket, leading to Gasol’s second three-pointer of the game.

And then Wesley Matthews got Memphis big Gorgui Dieng into the air and lunged into him, drawing the foul and making three free throws to get the Lakers on the doorstep of their first lead of the game, one they’d quickly claim.

A return to earth

The Lakers opened the season as one of the best shooting teams in the league from deep, Alex Caruso and Caldwell-Pope among the league leaders while the team hit nearly 39% from deep through the end of January.

But since, the Lakers have been cold, among the NBA’s worst three-point shooting teams through the first two weeks of February.

Prior to Friday, the Lakers were making just 30.9% from deep — numbers that worsened as the team misfired consistently from deep against the Grizzlies.

“I think we just came back to earth a little bit,” Vogel said pregame Friday. “We had some guys that were shooting a super hot percentage that have come back to earth on good looks. We’ve always called that reversion to the mean, which works both ways. …What we have to do is continue to commit to shot quality. Our execution in some of these games hasn’t been up to par, and that was a big focal point of our practice yesterday.”

Slow start

The Lakers held a rare practice on Thursday, an opportunity to try to reset after three straight overtime wins in which the team had to fight its way back from slow starts. And then on Friday, they had to do it again.

The Grizzlies scored the game’s first 11 points before James scored in the post, only for the Grizzlies to answer with another 11-0 run.

Anthony Davis, Alex Caruso return

The Lakers got reinforcements to their lineup, primarily with Davis returning to the starting lineup after a two-game absence.

Davis missed the Lakers’ overtime wins against Oklahoma City with what the team called Achilles tendinosis.

Caruso missed the last two games with a right hand injury. He returned Friday with the hand wrapped in black tape.

Both players were cleared to return after going through pregame workouts.

Markieff Morris back out

Back-to-back solid games from Matthews earned the veteran a place in Vogel’s planned rotation, which he planned on expanding to 10 from nine.

That means veteran big Markieff Morris is headed back to the bench, out of the team’s immediate plans.

“These are impossible decisions,” Vogel said. “Both of those guys deserve to be in the rotation.”

Morris said this week that moving to the bench hasn’t been easy. Vogel appreciates the sentiment.

“He’s one of our most important players, but we just have a unique team built around a lot of depth and it’s just a situation that we’re in. But I admire the hell out of the guy,” Vogel said of Morris.