Westbrook, Lakers flash glimpses of a turnaround

LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Lakers have their first win streak of the season after beating the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies in back-to-back games. And it looks like guard Russell Westbrook is getting his groove again. With LeBron James sitting out, Westbrook scored 33 points to lead the Lakers to a 125-121 win on the road against the Spurs.

Despite the two wins to even their record on the season at 2-2, the Lakers’ defensive struggles have carried over for a fourth straight game. In four games, the Lakers have given up 115, 118, 121, and 121 points, respectively. Not exactly a recipe for winning.

It’s early, so the Lakers should be able to figure this out. If not, this is going to be an issue for Los Angeles moving forward, especially in trying to match up against young talented stars such as Memphis stud Ja Morant. After dropping their first two games of the season at home, the Lakers, especially Carmelo Anthony, played with renewed vigor against Morant and the Grizzlies.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) in preseason action against the Phoenix Suns. File/Photo. Dennis J Freeman/News4usonline

Morant was basically unguardable, dropping 40 points and 10 assists against the Lakers. The Lakers would need everything but the kitchen sink to beat the Grizzlies after Morant lit them up. This is where Anthony steps up to the plate and does that scoring thing that he seems to always do when he’s tasked to do so.

With Westbrook and LeBron James having sub-par nights from the field, Anthony made 10 of his 15 shots from the field to finish the game with 28 points in 28 minutes of playing time to lift the Lakers to a 121-118 win at STAPLES enter.

“Melo shot the ball extremely well, I think he went 6/8 from three. He comes in and gives us a spark. It’s an honor to have him on our team and play beside him,” Lakers forward Anthony Davis said.

Starting off the game, the Lakers started slow on defense and missed some early shots, which led to an early timeout. Morant and the Grizzlies capitalized on the momentum after winning the night before against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Out of the timeout, the Lakers began to attack the interior defense of Memphis. Westbrook played the role of facilitator and looked more comfortable around his new teammates. By attacking the paint, the Lakers were able to close the first quarter successfully leading, 29-24.

Heading into the second quarter Anthony started to warm up. With Anthony going into a scoring mindset, Westbrook worked the floor, facilitating the ball rather than trying to put up points. In the second quarter, the Lakers suffered an injury scare when James took a hard fall and was on the floor for a few minutes.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony is now ninth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. File/Photo. Dennis J Freeman/News4usonline

“The first thing I was thinking to myself was not again,” said James. “I wanted to take a moment on the floor and I was able to continue to go. It’s a little sore right now, and I’m sure it will be when I wake up.”

James was able to get up and continue in the game, but after missing time due to an ankle injury last season, this was a hiccup moment for the Lakers and their fans. The Lakers, despite Morant heating up with 17 points in the first half, took a 62-56 lead into the locker room.

As they did against the Clippers, the Grizzlies came out strong in the third quarter and took the lead. Morant continued where he left off. The Lakers simply had no answers for Morant. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel inserted Avery Bradley in an attempt to slow down Morant.

That didn’t work out too well. The Grizzlies closed out the third quarter leading the Lakers, 90-87. Anthony then took over the game in the final period. Continuing the hot shooting he had all night, Anthony dropped one three-pointer after another in the fourth quarter.

It was what the Lakers needed as Los Angeles outscored Memphis 34-28 in the decisive period. Anthony moved past Moses Malone for 9th all-time in scoring during the game.

“He was outstanding tonight,” Vogel said. “congrats to Melo. Ninth all-time is unbelievable… he was awesome tonight. He did not crawl up to that milestone he blew the doors off of it.”

Anthony’s offensive display in the fourth quarter allowed the Lakers to find energy in their offense and defense to recapture the lead. Morant’s offensive spark kept the Grizzlies in the game all night. The Lakers got a reprieve, however, from the Memphis star’s hot shooting when he missed several free throws at the end of the game.

A foul call late in the game sent Morant to the line for free throw three shots, but he failed to convert them. The Lakers then were able to walk away with the victory. As for Anthony and his big night, it was a humbling experience for the veteran.

“It’s an honor, it’s a blessing,” Anthony said. “I’m still doing it 19 years in. I’m just happy to be here. It’s just the third game. So hopefully, there is many more to come.”