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Lakers defeat Grizzlies and get some good news about the play-in race

In Sports
April 13, 2024
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) is defended by Memphis Grizzlies guard Jordan Goodwin (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 12, 2024, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

On one end, you had the Lakers fumbling their way through the game like someone waking up in a strange, dark room with no idea how to flip on the lights.

And on the other end, you had the team the Lakers battled in the first round of the playoffs — all in their street clothes watching a collection of young players, others on 10-day contracts and G Leaguers threaten any shot the Lakers have to move up from 10th place in the Western Conference standings.

In all the combinations and permutations that would decide the Lakers’ play-in future, Friday night in Memphis was the gimme.

Read more: Lakers newsletter: The playoff path is grim, but the Lakers might catch a break

The Grizzlies had lost their last three games by a total of 47 points, their regulars either injured or shut down for the season. Thirteen different players were inactive. No one who played for Memphis on Friday touched the court last year for the Grizzlies in the playoffs.

Yet the Lakers got caught, their hands down at their waists, the Grizzlies’ repeated jabs to the chin staggering the team with everything to play for.

The Lakers eventually found the switch, and LeBron James flipping it with six straight points to help the Lakers survive 123-120.

“Just win,” Anthony Davis said. “They got some talented young guys over there who can score the basketball. We just got to win. It’s the time of the year where you just got to win. Win and keeping moving forward.”

Needing one final stop, the Lakers and Grizzlies scrambled for a loose ball, with James intercepting a pass while streaking the other way at full speed. He punctuated the game with a two-handed reverse slam. It happened with the Grizzlies’ best player GG Jackson, the NBA’s youngest, on the court.

“By the grays in my beard they’d probably know. They’d probably know I’m a lot older than they think,” James said. “But to be able to be on the floor and be able to play at a high level and keep up with the young guys, and keep up with the youngest guy, that’s something I take pride in. It’s an honor to be able to play this game that I love to play and play it at a high level.”

Forced to wait for results from the West Coast, the Lakers got a piece of good news when the Pelicans used a huge second quarter and some timely C.J. McCollum shot-making to win in Golden State. The Warriors loss means the Lakers will finish no worse than the No. 9 seed should they beat the Pelicans.

Read more: Plaschke: Lakers final stretch filled with headache, nausea and dimming hopes

Then, the Suns came back from down big to win in Sacramento, shotgunning the Lakers up to eighth — the spot they’ll finish in, again, with a win on Sunday against the Pelicans.

With a loss to the Grizzlies, it wouldn’t have mattered. But the Lakers did enough, thanks to their stars, to grit out a win.

James scored 37, Davis returning from his eye injury had 36 points and 14 rebounds while Rui Hachimura added 14 points.

Jackson scored 31 and made seven threes, his chance at a go-ahead three for No. 8 late rattling out.

“All in all, there were some things we definitely got to clean up,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said, “but we needed to win this game and we won it.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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