Memphis is too hot for the Lakers to handle

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – About the only good thing about the current losing streak that the Lakers are on is that it will come to an end one day. The Los Angeles Lakers fell short of that goal against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies. 

One reason the Lakers could not end this freefall they are in the middle of is that Los Angeles gave Grizzlies guard Marcus Smart plenty of room to do his thing. Smart made the Lakers pay for it, dropping eight 3-pointers on his way to scoring 29 points to help the Grizzlies punch the Lakers in the mouth with a 127-113 win at Arena. 

“Tonight was just one of those games where I just kept telling myself and my teammates kept telling me just stay with it,” Smart said in a postgame press conference. “I’ve been doing this for ten years, and I know better than anybody that this is a make-or-miss league, and eventually the shots are going to fall.” 

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers powers his way to the basket for the one-hand slam against the Memphis Grizzlies during an NBA game played at Arena on Jan. 5, 2024. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/The Bulletin

The Dec. 5 game on the Lakers’ docket figured to be evenly matched. It was that way until the Grizzlies closed out the Lakers on their floor with a 33-19 advantage in the fourth quarter to hand Los Angeles its fourth straight loss. 

The Lakers are now 2-9 in their last 11 contests.

Where things went wrong for the Lakers against the Grizzlies was the absence of perimeter defense. Smart and the rest of the Grizzlies had their way on the outside, making 51 percent of their 3-point shots (23 of 45) for the game.

“They hit some deep ones. They hit some ones that were contested,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said after the game. “We were right there in their faces. You have to be more aggressive, take your hat off to them…They shot the hell out of the ball. Some guys with lower percentages, from the whole team to certain individuals, they knocked them down.” 

Smart managed to convert 8 of the 14 treys he shot against the Lakers. This is where the Lakers lost the game. This is where Memphis dialed in well enough for the Grizzlies to earn their 12th win of the season (12-23).

“It seems to be a pattern. People are stepping their game up when they come into our building,” Ham remarked. “We got to be ready to meet force with force.”  

The good news for the Lakers is that they have plenty of games at home during January to right the ship and get back on the winning track. One area they have to improve on is the team’s perimeter defense. The Grizzlies shot 53 percent from the field while the Lakers connected on 49 percent of their shots. 

In the deciding fourth quarter, Memphis made good on 61 percent of the field goal attempts they took. The Grizzlies were even better from 3-point range, putting the ball through the net 63 percent (7 of 11) of the time. The Lakers shot 46 percent in the final period and did not make a single 3-point shot. 

LeBron James, who led all scorers with 32 points, could only muster six points in the 12 minutes he played in the fourth quarter. Anthony Davis, who finished the game with 31 points, was held to six points in the last quarter of action. 

“We got some pretty good looks,” James said about the Lakers offense stalling in the fourth quarter. “They turned us over. I had two critical turnovers. Missed four free throws, but we had our chances.”      

Dennis J. Freeman Written by:

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