LeBron James, Lakers avert disaster with ‘ugly’ win vs. Grizzlies in Anthony Davis’ return

With LeBron and AD carrying the load, the Lakers came down to the wire against the shorthanded Grizzlies.

The Lakers hoped Friday’s penultimate regular season game represented an automatic W. LeBron and AD shared the court for the first time since last Saturday afternoon’s sterling win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. (By Sunday night, though LeBron’s illness and AD’s eye injury had stymied the Lakers’ momentum.) The 27-54 Grizzlies own one of the lengthiest injury reports you’ll ever see.

Instead, the Lakers’ unfocused effort nearly caught up to them. The Lakers were undisciplined in the unsurprising areas: cleaning up the glass, biting on pump-fakes, committing unseemly fouls, 19 turnovers. The Grizzlies grit-and-grinded their way into a one-point lead with 1:17 to go.

As if nothing was never in doubt, LeBron scored six straight points to avert a crisis — or at least unnecessary stress. The 39-year-old punctuated his 41st minute of basketball with a steal and signature double-clutch reverse windmill. 113-110, Lakers.

“Pretty good read, and I was able to finish it off,” said LeBron. “Anytime you’re able to seal a game … feels good, cause that what you live for.”


AD added 36 points (11-of-22 shooting), 14 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks in 43 minutes. The superstars carried the load for a Lakers group that appeared largely adrift. Davis played the entire second half and had no physical issues.

“You try to get as many wins as possible, whether they’re clean wins, ugly wins,” said Davis. “We’re kind of in that mode now.”

“No disrespect to anyone on our roster, we have a really deep roster. But the rotation goes out the window when you need a much-needed victory like we just attained,” explained Lakers head coach Darvin Ham. “We needed to win this game, and we won it.”

Rui Hachimura scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Austin Reaves contributed 13 points. D’Angelo Russell shot 2-of-9 but tallied 10 assists. Russell is 10-of-30 from the field over his last three games.

“When DLo plays well, we all play well,” said LeBron. “When DLo’s aggressive, we feel pretty good about that. He’ll find his shot, we’re not worried about that.”

“No matter how we had to come about this game, we came out with a dub,” James stressed. “And that’s what most important.”

The Lakers (46-35) began Friday in a three-way tie with the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors for the Nos. 8-10 seeds in the Western Conference, though the Kings and Warriors have the tiebreaker advantage. A few hours after LeBron’s dunk, the Kings collapsed against the Phoenix Suns and the New Orleans Pelicans topped the Warriors.

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