The Grizzlies were mired in a five-game losing streak heading into action Sunday night. However, they had to get through LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, winners of seven straight games inside the Staples Center, but on a two-game losing streak of their own. In their first meeting on December 8th in Memphis, the Lakers won in a blowout 111-88.
The Grizzlies offense started out sluggish again, missing their first five shots. LA luckily started out equally as rough. Garrett Temple scored five of the first eight points, including a 15’ jumper to tie the game 8-8, and force a Lakers timeout. A few minutes later, Dillon Brooks got his first in game action since his injury on November 11th, and promptly missed a three. Jaren Jackson Jr. made one from close-range in the face of LeBron, but two quick LA baskets got JB Bickerstaff to pull the trigger and call for a timeout with LA up 16-12. The two teams traded baskets the rest of the quarter, but the story was the big men. Ivica Zubac got the start for LA due to injuries to JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler and put in 10 first quarter points. But the quarter belonged to Jaren Jackson Jr. as he led all scorers with 14 points. The Grizzlies would score the final nine points of the first to take a 26-20 lead at the break.
LA scored the first six of the second to tie the game up before a Mike Conley jumper broke the tie with 10:10 left in the quarter. Wayne Selden scored four straight off the bench to tie the game up at 34 forcing another Lakers timeout. Marc Gasol came alive in the second, going 4-of-5 from the floor in the second giving him 12 points for the half. LeBron James was held to just two points in the half but added in 10 rebounds and 5 assists. The Grizzlies were outshot 50%-42% in the quarter, but the Grizzlies took a four point lead into the half, 50-46. Zubac and Jackson led all scorers in the half with 16, while Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram both had eight for LA.
Jackson Jr. kept things going for the Grizzlies in the third, with four points in the first 4:30 of the period. Ingram and James took over for LA, scoring 10 of the next 13 LA points, to help put LA up 64-63. After the Jackson Jr. dunk with 7:49 to go in the quarter, the Grizzlies only made one shot from the floor until a JaMychal Green dunk at 2:57. Fortunately, the Grizzlies defense kept them in the game over that stretch, as a three by Green put the Grizzlies back up 68-66. The Grizzlies had a chance to have the lead heading to the fourth, but a Selden miss led to a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three just before the buzzer, giving LA a 75-72 lead at the end of three.
Both teams traded baskets to start the fourth, with the Grizzlies bench guys, Selden and Ivan Rabb getting the quarter started. A contested Conley three kept it close at 80-79. Some sloppy play by the Grizzlies and a steal/dunk combo from Caldwell-Pope led to a Grizzlies timeout with 7:05 left. Selden would answer out of the timeout with a three to give the Grizzlies an 87-85 lead. More back-and-forth play would ensue, until Gasol missed out on a three-point play with 3:42 left that gave Memphis a 93-91 lead. Conley would then hit back-to-back threes with a LeBron James three in between, making it 99-94, Memphis. After a pair of Jackson Jr. free throws, Temple drilled a left corner three to give the Grizzlies their biggest lead of the game, 104-94. After a couple breakdowns on offense and defense, the Grizzlies came out of a timeout up 104-99. Jackson Jr. would then drill a three in the face of LeBron James and Kyle Anderson blocked James’ subsequent layup attempt to give the Grizzlies a 107-99 win.
Jackson Jr. led all scorers with 27 points while adding in 9 rebounds. Conley and Gasol both chipped in 17 while Green and Selden both added 12 off the bench. LeBron James led the Lakers with a double-double of 22 points and 14 rebounds. Ingram got 20 on the night and Zubac dropped 19.
The Grizzlies move to 17-16 on the season and will be back in action the day after Christmas, when the Cleveland Cavaliers make their only trip to Memphis this season.
Omri Casspi and Joakim Noah both missed Sunday’s game with the same ailments that caused them to miss in Sacramento on Friday
Dillon Brooks had two points and two assists in 12:24, his first action since early November.