A second night in Memphis saw the Lakers, again, slog through the end of their four-game road trip.
But it’s not how you start, and sometimes not even about that ugly middle of the game. It’s about how you finish, and there aren’t many – or perhaps any – teams that have better finishing moves than the Lakers.
LeBron James provided a closing flourish in their 94-92 victory over the Grizzlies by scoring his final two field goals on turnaround jumpers that almost stunned by going in on the heels of a defensive slog.
James’ 26 points was matched by Anthony Davis, who also put down a dunk (assisted by James) and a pair of free throws in the last two minutes – helping the Lakers (6-2) skate out of Memphis with their fourth consecutive victory.
It’s rarely been pretty for the Lakers on this 4-0 trip, but even by early-season standards this one qualified as a dud: It was the lowest point total the Lakers have scored this year, and they racked up 17 turnovers and shot below 44 percent.
A 13-second stretch in the second quarter summed up the Lakers’ struggles: After Wesley Matthews missed a 3-point shot, Montrezl Harrell twice missed at close range and collected his own rebound, then finally passed out to Dennis Schröder (12 points) who missed a 26-footer.
Playing again without young stars Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson, the Grizzlies accounted for their loss in the aggregate. Five players scored in double figures, no one more than 13.
The Lakers lost a key edge at the free-throw line in a lightly officiated game. They shot just 11 free throws, only three in the first half. Memphis had 13 attempts at the line, flipping an advantage that Davis and James are usually able to earn with their hard drives to the rim.
The Lakers trailed 79-77 with five minutes left when the two big men combined for a 9-2 run for an 86-81 lead, the final basket coming on Davis’ dunk from James. James and Davis combined for a run of 15 straight points late in the fourth to push the lead to 92-83 with 31.1 seconds left.
Memphis was able to put together some late baskets to make it close, but couldn’t overtake the Lakers.
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