Friday, June 2 2023

The Los Angeles Lakers had a big opportunity ahead of them when they returned home for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies. With the series tied 1-1, they had a chance to take control once again and put Memphis in a needy situation.

Some may have wondered if the Lakers, who have suffered several inexcusable losses this season, would come out focused and aggressive, or if they would look as if they thought all they had to do was show up.

The former became their mindset, as they blitzed the Grizzlies early and jumped out to an 18-2 lead, which became a 35-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter. It represented the biggest lead they have ever had in the first period of a playoff game in their storied history.

The Grizzlies responded with a small run late in the second quarter to make the halftime score more respectable. Down the stretch of the fourth quarter, Ja Morant tried to put them on his back and give them a chance to win in the fourth quarter, as he relentlessly attacked the rim and got to the free throw line.

After missing Game 2 due to a hand injury, he played near the top of his game late and finished with 45 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds. But Los Angeles had enough left in the tank to notch a 111-101 victory and take a 2-1 series lead.

This was a chippy contest, and the most notable incident came early in the third quarter when Dillon Brooks hit LeBron James in the groin, resulting in a flagrant 2 foul and an ejection. It came just three days after he talked trash to the four-time MVP throughout Game 2, then called him “old” afterward.

It wasn’t an impressive offensive outing for the Lakers — they shot just 45.6 percent overall and 25.0 percent from 3-point range. But they won with defense, effort and intensity, and those qualities will take a team far in the postseason.

Anthony Davis: A/A+

Davis struggled from the field in the first half, and it wasn’t the most efficient of games for him, as he shot a mediocre 11-of-24 from the field and 1-of-4 from downtown.

But his energy, effort and intensity defensively and on the boards were immense, as he grabbed 17 rebounds, blocked three shots and added two steals. He started to heat up offensively in the third period, as his teammates looked to go to him more and more, allowing him to finish with 31 points.

Daivs played very poorly offensively in Game 2, but he tends to bounce back very well after poor games, and this contest was no exception. One key was the fact that after being double-teamed for much of Game 2, he seemed to attack quicker off the catch on Saturday.

Jarred Vanderbilt: B

Before Morant went off in the fourth quarter, Vanderbilt did a fairly good job on him defensively. The forward held him to just 4-of-14 from the field in the first three quarters, but he had the Lakers on their heels in the final period.

Vanderbilt went scoreless and had only one rebound in 21 minutes, but he also had three blocks and two steals. As usual, his impact went beyond his mere stats.

LeBron James: A-

Kudos to James for not getting suckered into getting back at Brooks or going at him too much offensively after the comments the Memphis forward made after Game 2.

James played his usual game, going 10-of-20 from the field and finishing with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists, although he missed all four of his 3-point attempts, something which has been a problem for him all season.

There was a time in his career when he would’ve gotten distracted by the type of “noise” Brooks created, but James is past that phase of his life. He is now a grizzled veteran who knows how to keep himself and his team focused.

D’Angelo Russell: C/C+

For the second straight game, Russell struggled from the field. He started off well in the first quarter, but he finished just 5-of-14 from the field and 2-of-7 from beyond the arc. He did manage to hit a big midrange jumper with about a minute remaining in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.

On the other hand, he had a team-high seven assists against just two turnovers, and he dropped some sweet dimes at times during the contest, finding teammates such as Davis open off zip passes down the middle. It shows Russell’s value to the Lakers, even when he is struggling to hit shots.

Austin Reaves: B+

Reaves had a solid outing, shooting 5-of-10 from the field to finish with 13 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal. He had a couple of nice hustle plays that resulted in baskets, including two putback buckets off offensive rebounds.

Four of Reaves’ six rebounds came on the offensive boards, evidence of his ever-present hustle and grit.

Rui Hachimura: A

Hachimura has been a revelation for the Lakers lately.

After an inconsistent regular season for them following his arrival in a late January trade, he has been huge in this series so far. On Saturday, he scored 16 points in just 22 minutes on 6-of-10 shooting, to go along with five rebounds, and he made both of his 3-point tries.

Shortly after he entered the game in the first quarter, he scored seven quick points to take the Lakers’ lead from big to insurmountable. It’s that type of impact that makes him very valuable to the team now and moving forward.

Troy Brown Jr.: C

Brown shot 1-of-3 in 17 minutes and missed both of his shots from downtown. He was hot from the outside over the last couple of months of the regular season, but it hasn’t carried over to the playoffs so far, as he’s just 1-of-6 from 3-point land in this series.

On Saturday, he finished with two points, three rebounds, one steal and one block.

Dennis Schroder: B-/B

Schroder has been quiet so far in this series offensively, but he did score seven points on 3-of-6 shooting in 24 minutes off the bench. He also added three assists, two steals and one rebound.

Malik Beasley: D

Beasley’s playing time has fallen drastically of late, and so have his shot opportunities. He got up only two shots in Game 3, missing both of them, and his only positive contribution was two rebounds in 13 minutes.

Wenyen Gabriel: Incomplete

Gabriel got just one minute of playing time at the end of the first quarter, and he made no contribution on the stat sheet.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire

Source: Yahoo Sports


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