Lakers doomed by late miscues in loss to Grizzlies
Jaren Jackson Jr. hit a three-pointer out of a timeout and then celebrated his dagger as he backpedaled down the court.
The Memphis Grizzlies hadn’t won a game in a while, and they were on their way to a sure one.
The Lakers lost to the Grizzlies 107-99 on Sunday, giving up 35 points in the fourth quarter and allowing Memphis to make eight of their 10 three-point attempts during that period. The win snapped a five-game losing streak by Memphis (17-16) and dropped the Lakers to 19-14.
“We lost because we stopped playing defense,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “They scored 35 and we went under on [Mike] Conley on a three and we switched out to Conley and we weren’t up at the level of the three.
“So it’s things that we know better and we can control that cost us and caused us to lose that game.”
Jackson finished with 27 points while Marc Gasol and Conley each scored 17 for the Grizzlies.
Lebron James led the Lakers with 22 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Ivica Zubac added 19 points and Brandon Ingram had 20.
Although center JaVale McGee was cleared to play, the Lakers held him out for one more game as he recovers from an illness that eventually became pneumonia. McGee played against the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 15 after he began to feel ill, then missed the Lakers’ next three games.
Tyson Chandler missed Sunday’s game with back spasms.
“We had both of our big men out tonight, who have basically been our MVPs this year so far,” James said. “I think Zu played a hell of a game. We all tried to make up for Tyson and JaVale’s absence. But we just came up a little short.
“With a versatile team like Memphis, where you know it’s going to be physical the whole night, you kinda need bigs. But defensively, I thought we were pretty good for three quarters. But we had some turnovers. And in the fourth quarter, we had too many miscues.”
The center responsibilities were left to Zubac and rookie Moe Wagner. With Wagner playing only four minutes, it fell mostly to Zubac, who played 33 minutes.
“I was playing [through] LeBron and my teammates,” Zubac said. “They were helping set the screens and LeBron was getting deep into paint and my guy had to help. So he would serve the ball for me and I would just have to finish it.
“I think that helped us to get the paint right and we got some wide-open shots from that but were not able to make them.”
Zubac, making his second start of the season, scored 10 first-quarter points and had 16 in the first half, tied with Jackson for the game high at that point.
James scored only two points in the first half, taking two shots. But he contributed 10 rebounds and five assists during that portion of the game.
“The shots are always there for me, but I just play the game,” James said. “I play the game the right way. Guys were open. I was feeding big Zu.
“I was drawing the defense, drawing Marc Gasol’s eyes and hit Zu on a few pocket passes, getting my guys involved.”
The Lakers moved the ball well, notching 17 first-half assists as a team.
They had a three-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, which was when Memphis was able to pull away with the help of an 8-0 run during a span of 1 minute 24 seconds.
“We made a couple costly defensive mistakes down the stretch that we’ve got to learn from,” Josh Hart said. “We’ve got a young team. They made some big shots down the stretch.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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