The Los Angeles Lakers were apparently in control, rising 13 points late in the third quarter, before Ja Morant nearly outscored them on his own down the stretch in the Memphis Grizzlies’ 104-99 home win on Wednesday.
Morant scored 16 of his 41 points from the 3-minute-38-second mark in the third to the final bell, marking a 37-19 push from Memphis to top things off.
“When you throw the ball as good as he did tonight from the perimeter, with his speed and his athleticism, it’s going to be difficult to hold off a guy like that because he’s doing all three levels of scoring,” said LeBron James, whose 37 points, including eight triples to tie a personal record, they went for naught. “You can’t – there’s nothing you can do. He has you at his beck and call. [and call]. “
It was the second time Morant surpassed 40 points against the Lakers this season in the two times he has played them.
He shot 13 of 27 from the field Wednesday, including 6 of 7 from 3-point range, and was 9 of 12 from the free throw line, adding 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks.
As strong as his final bloom was, he was equally impressive early in the game when he scored 16 straight points for the Grizzlies, linking the end of the second quarter and early third.
“We started fouling man, and he went to the free throw line and started watching the ball go in, and he got his rhythm that way,” Lakers guard Malik Monk said. “And when a guy does it like that, there’s not much you can do.”
Memphis’ return thwarted what could have been a 2-0 road trip for the Lakers to bring them back to .500 after a win at the Houston Rockets on Tuesday. Instead, Los Angeles (17-19) is in one place to play in the Western Conference standings as the season approaches the midpoint, with Memphis (22-14) strengthening its grip on the No. 4 seed. .
“Obviously, Ha, what an amazing night for him, the tone that he set throughout the game,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “When it got going, it just cheered everyone up, and we let loose there in that third quarter.”
Morant finished with six turnovers, including three in the fourth quarter, but it was the Lakers who were left to regret their 18 turnovers, which led to 21 points for the Grizzlies.
James had five turnovers, spoiling his sixth straight 30-point effort, and Russell Westbrook also posted five turnovers, softening the impact of his third straight triple-double (16 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds).
“We understand we have a lot of attackers, but sloppy turnovers where you literally just flip the ball over, there’s no pressure and no reason for it, those are the ones that get us in trouble,” James said.
James’ most glaring mistake of the night came with 6.7 seconds left and the Lakers trailing by 3, when he threw the ball to the Grizzlies, denying Los Angeles a chance to attempt a game-tying shot.
“The only thing I think probably hurt us the most down the stretch were the turnovers and one more play, where [L.A. failed to execute] the easy play to make one more pass to the open man, “said Lakers acting coach David Fizdale, completing while Frank Vogel is on league health and safety protocols.
Westbrook, whose turnovers have been a common theme in the Lakers’ losses this season, blamed elsewhere. He said the difference between Los Angeles closing out the Rockets in the fourth quarter on Tuesday and failing to secure a win against the Grizzlies one night later came down to shot selection.
The Lakers made 12 of 21 field goals in the fourth at Houston, 1 of 5 of 3. They shot 7 of 20 in the final frame at Memphis, including a 2-of-10 mark from 3 – where James accounted for a 2-for-count. out of 6, with the rest of the team going 0 out of 4, including a Westbrook miss.
“You can see the history of the two and see where our shots are coming from,” Westbrook said. “There is not much in the painting.”