LeBron James and Russell Westbrook put on a show in the second of the back-to-back games, but the Los Angeles Lakers still lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 104-99 on Wednesday despite leading for the majority of the game.
Only the day after James and Westbrook became the third-ever Lakers duo to register a triple-double on the same night in the win over the Houston Rockets, they came close to repeating the extraordinary feat.
If that wasn’t enough of a flex for James, he also tied his career-high of eight triples made in a single game, shooting 8-for-14 from downtown.
In the end, the four-time NBA champion missed out on a triple-double by three assists, ending the night with 37 points, 13 rebounds, and seven dimes. Westbrook had 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists.
James quickly got busy in Memphis on the eve of his 37th birthday, working towards his sixth straight 30-point performance. The four-time NBA champion drilled a couple of triples before sinking a 15-foot fadeaway, giving L.A. an early 16-11 lead.
He would soon strike from the 3-point land again, taking the Lakers’ lead to double-digits. But Morant’s back-to-back buckets cut it down to 25-17, prompting acting head coach David Fizdale to call L.A.’s first timeout with a little over three minutes left in the first quarter.
Besides the Grizzlies’ young star, they generally struggled to score early on — even when the Lakers left them wide open on the perimeter. They shot 9-for-26 from the field in the opening quarter, leading to L.A.’s 30-23 lead.
Los Angeles opened the second period with a 9-4 run, forcing Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins to call a quick timeout.
Five minutes in, Kyle Anderson’s tip-in cut L.A.’s lead down to 39-33 while securing the eighth offensive board for the hosts. The Grizzlies’ second-chance points kept them in the game — as well as their continuous trips to the free throw line.
Memphis would go 12-for-13 from the charity stripe before halftime.
Before the break, James and Westbrook cranked up the pressure, trading dimes between themselves to orchestrate the Lakers’ 9-0 run. Morant responded with seven straight points in less than a minute, capping it off with a two-hand dunk off L.A.’s eighth turnover.
Still, L.A. headed to the locker room with a 54-48 lead. James and Westbrook ended the half on a triple-double watch again — the former with 15 points, eight rebounds, and five assists and the latter with ten points, six rebounds, and seven assists.
James picked up where he left off to open the third, scoring seven quick points as Morant answered with six in a row for the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Westbrook focused on playmaking and quickly chalked up his tenth assist — assisting on Monk’s triple before sending mid-air dime to Dwight Howard for an easy layup.
After James made his fifth triple on six attempts and Westbrook found Howard again for an alley-oop dunk, the Lakers went 72-61 up halfway through the quarter.
But Memphis closed out the third with a 12-3 run to bring the game back within five, capitalizing on L.A.’s lingering issues in non-James minutes ahead of the final period.
Less than 80 seconds into the fourth, the Grizzlies tied things up thanks to a Desmond Bane 3-pointer.
Despite another push from the James-Westbrook duo, Memphis jumped ahead with a 93-92 lead for the first time since Steven Adams opened the scoring in the first seconds of the game.
Morant’s takeover late in the night earned him an impressive stat line of 41 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, two steals, and 85.7% from downtown (shooting 6-for-7) — sealing the win for the Grizzlies.
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