LeBron James doesn’t know easy: Five takeaways from Lakers’ win over Grizzlies

LeBron James gestures during a game.
LeBron James had a pretty big finish during the Lakers’ 108-94 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Here are five observations from the Lakers’ 108-94 win in Memphis on Sunday:

1. All the talk about Lebron James taking it easy hasn’t translated to the court, where he again sniffed a triple-double on the back of 13 defensive rebounds.

“I love it. We’ll manage his minutes and all that stuff in a responsible way but when he’s out on the floor, that’s who he is,” Frank Vogel said. “He’s as competitive as anybody in the league and 13 defensive rebounds, like, that’s hard to do when you’re not a center. That’s just competitive spirit, wanting to win and being determined.”


James’ fourth-quarter scoring — 13 points while only missing one of his six attempts — came at the right time, pushing the Lakers into such dominant control that he and Anthony Davis got to end the game on the bench watching the reserves clean up.

LeBron James was the driving force in the Lakers’ 108-94 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday by scoring 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter.

Jan. 3, 2021

“We were doing a lot of jostling with Memphis tonight and just going back and forth. And a two-point lead here or they’d take a one-point lead, or we’d take a one-point lead,” James said. “So at the start of the fourth, I wanted to try to implement myself and my scoring a little bit more. Get a little bit more in attack mode and see if I can kind of open the game up. And we were able to do that.”

2. The Clippers might have had their reasons for not wanting Montrezl Harrell, but the Lakers had their reasons for swooping him up as soon as he was available.

He showed it again Sunday, scoring 16 points on seven-of-11 shooting in 21 minutes off the bench, kind of a best-case scenario game for Harrell, who helped get the Lakers on track in the first half.

“Energy,” Vogel said with a smile when asked about the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.

It’s more than that — there’s the in-between floater game, the crafty finishing and the charge-taking instincts. But in the middle of a trip, Harrell’s triple-shot of cappuccino off the bench can make a big difference.

3. Marc Gasol finally got to play in Memphis, scheduling quirks making him wait 23 months before experiencing life as a visiting player in the Grizzlies’ home arena.


He had seven points, six rebounds and four assists in the Lakers’ win.

Highlights from the Lakers’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

“It meant a lot, obviously,” Gasol said. “You’re missing a huge part of all this which is the fans and the people from Memphis that have been there. But obviously, I’m very thankful for what the franchise has done for me, not just now in recognition, but throughout the years that I was here, and now carry on into the next generation.”

4. The Lakers have settled on Kyle Kuzma as the next man up, regardless of the player he is replacing.

Without Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Frank Vogel tabbed Kuzma to start. He’s also said that Kuzma would be next up if James or Davis sat.

Regardless of who sits, Vogel said he wants the same mentality from Kuzma.

“It really isn’t, in my opinion. We want him to be, whether he’s in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, we want him to be ultra-aggressive offensively, in particularly this year looking for opportunities to be a movement shooter but also to be a great reader of the defense,” Vogel said. “We don’t want him out there just taking bad shots and I think he’s done an outstanding job of that this year just looking to create, taking what the defense gives him, shoot the shot when it’s there and when help comes move it on to the next man and then obviously to compete his tail off on the defensive end. That role doesn’t change at all.”

Kuzma scored 11 points on nine shots.

5. For those waiting for more Talen Horton-Tucker hype, here’s this from Vogel:

“Talen had some really good bursts. He’s still a young player. And had some coverages that he missed early in the game that, like the rest of the group, he figured out and got better as the game went along,” Vogel said. “We just love what that young man brings to the table in terms of his two-way productivity. Also got the rim a few times tonight. He knocked down a 3. So, he brings a lot to the table.”