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Lakers’ carelessness too much to overcome in loss to Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane defends against Lakers forward LeBron James.
Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane defends against Lakers forward LeBron James during the first half Wednesday in Memphis.
(Nikki Boertman / Associated Press)

Russell Westbrook sliced into the lane in Memphis and lobbed a pass to Malik Monk on the wing that floated right into the shooter’s pocket. Monk caught the pass, smoothly released his silky jumper and splashed the ball through the hoop — three picture-perfect points for the Lakers.

Westbrook held his hands over his eyes like a pair of binoculars, a signal that he sees all.

For so much of this Lakers season, you’d either need corrected vision or some magnifiers to see the stretches that Lakers players and coaches would talk about that kept them so confident. The bulk of the evidence was so damning.

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This wasn’t that.

Clear as day, you could see why the Lakers would want LeBron James and Westbrook together, their offensive skill and experience carving up the Grizzlies for most of the night.

The ball zipped around the perimeter on offense just like their feet did on defense. They, not the Grizzlies, were more energized, more urgent in their actions. They looked like the team the Lakers have promised they could be.

And then, they quickly and destructively did not.

“It all happened pretty fast,” David Fizdale said postgame, the Lakers interim coach crumbling up the box score as he walked away

LeBron James declined to respond to an essay written by Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that criticized James for a social media post about COVID-19.

The Lakers lost 104-99 to Memphis after leading by 13 with two minutes to go in the third quarter. They would only score 16 points the rest of the game from that point on, their awful decisions compounded by Ja Morant’s continued superstar turn in leading the Grizzlies into the top half of the West.

“Nobody likes to lose,” Westbrook said postgame.

When they were good Wednesday, the Lakers looked like a team that had found an identity by attacking the rim and kicking the ball to shooters.

James tied a career high with eight three-point shots, plenty coming off of clean looks at the basket after superior ball movement. But the Grizzlies defense tightened and the Lakers stumbled down the stretch, the team taking half of their 20 field goal attempts in the fourth from behind the three-point line and making only two.

It was a totally different ending than the night before in Houston, where the Lakers closed out a win by attacking the Rockets defense, scoring in the paint and at the line. Against the Grizzlies, the Lakers didn’t attempt a single free throw in the fourth against their 10 three-point shots.

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is defended by Memphis Grizzlies center Steven Adams and guard Ja Morant.
Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is defended by Memphis Grizzlies center Steven Adams (4) and guard Ja Morant in the first half Wednesday in Memphis.
(Nikki Boertman / Associated Press)

“You can watch the tale of the two and see where our shots come from. Not much in the paint. Some in the paint but, um, just how long it takes to get rhythm shots,” Westbrook said. “But it’s neither here nor there. It doesn’t matter at this point — just got to get ready for the next one and do a better job of executing, especially in the fourth.”

Westbrook had another triple-double, but he and James had 10 turnovers combined, the Lakers’ leaders too careless with the ball.

And while they’re just counted as missed shots in the final stats, Westbrook again missed a couple of easy uncontested layups, including one in the fourth that would have gotten the Lakers within one point.

The Lakers still had a chance to tie, but Monk couldn’t get the ball to Westbrook in the left corner. Instead, he worked it to James, who threw away the ball to end the game.

LeBron James starts at center, Russell Westbrook also has a triple-double, and the Lakers beat the Rockets 132-123 on Tuesday night in Houston.

It was the Lakers’ 18th turnover of the game — they are 2-7 in those games.

“There’s a difference between careless turnovers and attack turnovers, and we have to cut down on our careless turnovers, the ones that are just unforced,” James said.

Dan Woike reported remotely from Los Angeles.


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