The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Memphis Grizzles Sunday afternoon, 108-103, in a game that felt winnable from the opening tip-off.
With the victory, the Lakers surprisingly won the season series with the playoff-bound Grizzles, losing a very close game on the road in early December but bouncing back to win the next game between the two teams a month later.
The Grizzles played without their best player, Marc Gasol, yet the game was close throughout until Tyler Ennis made two clutch free throws at the end to secure the win. To the chagrin of fans, with the win, the Lakers are now tied with the Phoenix Suns in the “Lottery Bowl” for the worst record in the Western Conference with identical records of 22-55, with five games remaining on the season.
Here are three takeaways from the win over Memphis.
1. Lakers Dominated the Boards
The visitors shot 50 percent from the floor for the game and had double the number of assists, blocks, and three-pointers made. However, the Lakers dominated the boards, grabbing 51 rebounds to Memphis’ 33, and that was the difference.
Three Lakers finished with double-doubles. Larry Nance, Jr. played a team-high 40 minutes and had 12 points, 14 rebounds, and three steals. He connected on this only three-point shot. Nance was all over the place defensively, and it made a difference.
Despite questionable defense at times, Randle finished with 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds. As he has done lately, Thomas Robinson entered the game in the first quarter and immediately the team responded positively to his energy and aggressive style. For the game, he had 12 points, 10 rebounds, and two steals, and again he was a difference maker in this contest.
2. D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram Had Good Games, But Jordan Clarkson Did Not
Russell and Clarkson performed poorly in the team’s last game, a loss to the Clippers. Russell’s see-saw year continued as he bounced back from scoring a mere two points in that contest to finishing this game as high scorer with 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He also chipped in six rebounds and five assists. Russell got off to an inauspicious start by making four turnovers and shooting a couple of airballs in the first quarter alone, but he settled down and had only more turnover the rest of the day.
Ingram is on a minutes restriction due to a recent bout with tendonitis in his knee, but he was very aggressive and impactful when he was on the floor. He played only 23 minutes but scored 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and he made an array of shots from different locations on the floor. The past month his shooting percentage has been above 50 percent, which is outstanding, and he is continuing to look more and more comfortable whether he is shooting from outside or attacking the rim.
Clarkson had another poor outing. He had success in March attacking the rim, but he is now settling for too many three-point shots and not making many of them. For the second straight game, he had seven points in the first half but did not score at all in the second half. On the night, he was 3-of-12 shooting with three rebounds and four assists. Like Russell, he was careless with the ball at times.
3. Tyler Ennis Had Another Strong Outing
Ennis is making the most of his opportunity since joining the Lakers on February 23, 2017, in a trade with the Houston Rockets for Marcelo Huertas. The 22-year-old, 6’2” point guard from Brampton, Canada, had a slow start with the team but has come on strong in recent games. He had 11 points in this contest including two free throws which secured the win in the end, but more impressively, he is running the offense with confidence and showing he can attack the rim and knock down three-point shots.
Ennis was the 18th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and the Lakers are already his fourth team. It is unknown why Ennis has bounced around so much, but there are five more games this season, and he will continue to get a chance to showcase his skills.
If his recent solid play is repeated, there is reason to believe he could be asked to return next season in a backup point guard role.