Despite bruising his right calf in the second quarter, Anthony Davis scored 28 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked seven shots in 30 minutes as the Lakers dismantled the Memphis Grizzlies 117-105.
“My job’s to come out every night, play hard and get this team playing hard, playing great on defense and try to get wins,” Davis said.
The Lakers earned their 19th victory in 26 games at Staples Center.
After trailing by as many as 25 points in the third quarter, Memphis used 13-0 and 7-0 runs to cut the Laker lead to eight. The Grizzlies reached to within four in the final period, but couldn’t stop James or Davis down the stretch.
“First game back after, what, 10 days of being off,” Davis said. “So we knew the first was was going to be a little sloppy, but I think we did a great job.”
LeBron James led all scorers with 32 points. James shot 11-of-12 from the foul line, reaching double digit attempts for just the second time this season. Avery Bradley shot 6-of-10 from the field and scored 14. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 12 off the bench. On his 34th birthday, Rajon Rondo posted five points and five assists. Alex Caruso finished a +22 in 23 minutes, scoring nine points and snatching four boards. Danny Green finished a +26 in 26 minutes.
“[Danny and Alex are] both just winning players,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “Danny provides the gravity and defensive intelligence and knowhow, and even just offensive spacing. Alex is one of those guys that impacts the game in a million different ways. Offensive rebounds on free throws, deflections, rebounds defensively, making plays with the bounce offensively in catch-and-shoot situations.”
The Lakers held Memphis to 31.3% shooting from 3-point range and forced 17 turnovers. After tallying just six turnovers in the first half, LA turned the ball over seven times in the third quarter. The Lakers blocked 14 shots.
LA improves to 42-12 and has won four straight.
“Every team that we play is going to play great basketball versus us,” James said. “They look forward to that matchup and it’s up to us to just try to take teams out of what they do well.”
Kyle Kuzma replaced Davis less than two minutes into the first quarter. Davis took a knee to the back of his leg and sat on the bench for a few moments, before heading back to the Laker lockerroom.
“Anytime anything happens to any of our guys, but in particular someone like Anthony that means so much to us, you get nervous,” Vogel said. “We could tell from the bench that he got kicked in the calf, it wasn’t a soft tissue injury or anything like that, or a strain.”
LA took a 19-point lead to the break, forcing 11 turnovers and holding the Grizzlies to 39.5% shooting from the field.
Green said the key to the Lakers’ defense effort was, “slowing down bodies and keeping [the Grizzlies] infront of us.”
The Lakers broke out to a 13-5 start, highlighted by an acrobaddict Danny Green-to-James alleyoop in transition. Tyus Jones supplied seven quick points off the Grizzlies bench, as Memphis cut the LA lead to six by the end of the first quarter.
James and Rondo hit 3-pointers to extend the Lakers lead to 11 in the first few moments of the second quarter. A 16-2 run put the Lakers ahead 54-36. Davis scored at the basket through contact from Dillon Brooks to end the half.
Memphis rookies Brandon Clarke and Ja Morant both scored in double figures, combining for 31 points.
“He’s very athletic, he’s very slithery,” Green said of Morant. “He’s crafty. He knows how to use his body well, he knows how to draw fouls, he knows how to jump around you. Once he gets that jumper going, he’s going to be very dangerous. He’s shooting pretty well, but he’s just not as confident as he will be.”
Clarke started the second half in place of Jarren Jackson Jr., who dealt with left knee soreness after taking an awkward fall in the second quarter. Josh Jackson added 20 points in 23 minutes off the Memphis bench. The Grizzlies scored 64 points in the paint.
Winners of an NBA-record 17 consecutive road games against Western Conference opponents, LA hosts Boston and New Orleans before hitting the road for three games.
“Every game is the most important game, whichever one we’re playing,” Caruso said. “Just carrying momentum game after game, getting ready for playoffs. That starts now and we’re going to continue to build and get ready for that.”
Memphis stays in LA for a clash with the Clippers and then heads to Houston.
The NBA announced Friday that LA’s Jan. 28 game against the Clippers, which was postponed after the Calabasas helicopter tragedy, has been rescheduled to Apr. 9.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Friday that bought-out forward Markieff Morris, who averaged 11 points on 45% shooting for the Detroit Pistons this season, plans to sign with the Lakers. His brother, Marcus Morris, was recently traded to the Clippers. Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN also reported that the Lakers are waiving the injured DeMarcus Cousins to create a roster spot for Morris.
Despite the report, Cousins was seen working out in Laker gear on the Staples Center floor before Friday night’s action. Vogel was asked before the game about Cousins status and he declined to go into further detail in terms of the front office’s strategy.
Blake Atwell is a multimedia journalist and sophomore at Santa Monica College.