Lakers Bounce Back Against Grizzlies To Finally Win Game In Relegation

For Grizzlies fans fighting sleep to watch their late start against the Lakers, the early numbers Friday would've made them assume it was a dream.

11-0. 22-2.

It wasn't a mistake. The Grizzlies started fast and led for the entire first half in Staples Center. But then reality struck in the form of LeBron James.

James keyed the Lakers' 115-105 win at Staples Center with 13 third-quarter points. He ended a 14-2 Lakers run with a 3-pointer before the buzzer.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, left, tries to pass while under pressure from Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, center, and forward LeBron James during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Grizzlies, playing on ESPN for the first this season, had almost a perfect first half thanks to their defense and Jonas Valanciunas dominating inside. They led 59-46 at halftime as Ja Morant punctuated things with a 3-pointer before the buzzer.

Down to just nine active players, the Grizzlies (10-11) scored 20 points off 11 Lakers turnovers in the first half. But the Lakers, who've won seven consecutive games, countered in the third turning up their defense and outscored the Grizzlies 41-23

It was almost the same scenario that cost the Grizzlies in their first two games against the Lakers (21-6) in January. A strong first half but not enough juice in the second to counter James (28 points, nine rebounds, eight assists) or Anthony Davis (35 points and nine rebounds)

Grayson Allen led the Grizzlies with 23 points on a career-high-tying six 3-pointers. Allen started in place of Desmond Bane, who left the team following the death of his great-grandmother

Morant and Valanciunas each scored 22 points. For Morant, who added 10 assists, it was his first 20-point game since returning from an ankle injury on Jan. 16. 

Morant relished the matchup as he challenged Davis by sizing him up and driving to the lane for a left-handed layup in the third quarter. But the Grizzlies' didn't have the depth to match the Lakers.

Brandon Clarke and De'Anthony Melton remained out due to injury. As a result, the Grizzlies' bench, one of the NBA's most productive, only had 20 points, the same number Lakers reserve Kyle Kuzma had by himself.

For 16 minutes, however, it didn't matter as the Grizzlies played one of the better defensive halves. The only problem? There was 16 more minutes to go and the Grizzlies' burst fizzled out as James threw down a tomahawk dunk late in the fourth quarter to end any cance

The Grizzlies continue their West Coast swing to face the Sacramento Kings on Sunday (9 p.m., Fox Sports Southeast). It'll be the first meeting between the teams this season.

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