The Grizzlies’ stars finally played well together in the same game, and Desmond Bane already is planning to be back for another tipoff Sunday in Memphis.
Even with Game 6 looming Friday night in Los Angeles, where the Grizzlies have yet to win this season or in this series.
Bane had 33 points and 10 rebounds, two-time All-Star Ja Morant added 31 points and 10 boards, and the Grizzlies staved off elimination Wednesday night, beating the Lakers 116-99 to force their first-round Western Conference series back to Los Angeles.
“I said it out there, and I’ll say it again,” Bane said. “We are going to be back for a Game 7 in front of the best fans in the NBA.”
Morant missed Memphis’ last Game 6 a year ago in the Western semi-finals, a series-ending loss in Golden State. Asked what it will take for the Grizzlies to return for another game, Morant had a short answer.
“Me being a leader and, you know, being ready for this pedestal everybody got me on,” said Morant, who signed a five-year, supermax contract last summer.
Jaren Jackson Jr., the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who improved to 5-0 in Game 5s played in Memphis and cut the seventh-seeded Lakers’ series lead to 3-2. Memphis earned a second straight No. 2 seed by posting the NBA’s best home record at 35-
“Obviously it was a win or go home situation,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.
LeBron James started 1 of 7 from the field but finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. It was a modest follow-up after the 38-year-old played 45 minutes in Monday night’s overtime win in Los Angeles and became the oldest player in NBA history to post at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in his 270th playoff game.
This time, James played 37 minutes and was the first starter coach Darvin Ham pulled with the Grizzlies in control.
“He and I made eye contact,” Ham said. “We had a nonverbal discussion. It was time. We’re going to need him big on Friday.”
James said he doesn’t know how he’ll feel Friday night now that this series has a game every other night with travel on the off day.
“I’ll take care of the body,” James said. “Try to get as much sleep as I can. Seeing how fast the body can recover and get ready for Friday.”
Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 31 points and 19 rebounds. Austin Reaves had 17 points and D’Angelo Russell scored 11.
The Lakers tried to rally with a 20-7 run in the fourth. They couldn’t get closer than 12, the last on a putback by Davis with 2:52 left. Memphis answered with eight straight that got fans chanting “Whoop That Trick” with about 90 seconds left.
“That run at the end of the third, kind of got away from us,” said Davis, who promised he’ll be ready to play 48 minutes if needed in Game 6.
Memphis led only 23-20 when Jenkins took out Dillon Brooks, known more for calling James old and missing shots than his defence in this series. The Grizzlies seized control, finishing on a 15-4 run capped by Bane’s 3 just before the quarter expired for a 38-24 lead.
The Grizzlies led by as much as 17 in the second with Morant scoring 10, including drawing a foul on James for a three-point play. Memphis led 61-52 at halftime.
Russell scored the first eight of the third for the Lakers to quickly turn it into a one-point game. James, who had nine in the quarter, hit a pair of free throws that pulled Los Angeles within 75-74 with 4:36 left.
Memphis responded with a 26-2 run that lasted through the start of the fourth. Morant had 11 in the third and finished the quarter with back-to-back buckets. His final drive put the Grizzlies up 94-76 going into the fourth.
Bane capped the spurt with a three-point play for a 101-76 lead the Lakers couldn’t overcome.
Lakers: They lost for just the fourth time in their past 17 games. ... They came in having outscored Memphis’ bench 119-79 thanks to 72 points from Rui Hachimura. But the forward picked up two quick fouls early and played only five minutes of the first half. He finished with nine points, and the benches matched each other with 18 apiece.
Grizzlies: They will have to prove they can win in Los Angeles to force the third Game 7 in franchise history and first since 2014. They lost their lone game in the regular season at Los Angeles before dropping both Games 3 and 4, though the Grizzlies lost by six in overtime Monday night.
Making the double-doubles by Bane and Morant so necessary is that Memphis doesn’t have veteran centre Steven Adams and reserve Brandon Clarke because of injuries. The Lakers won the rebounding battle 54-52, but Jenkins got what he wanted after challenging his guards to get after the ball more.
“These guys owning that and coming out with double-doubles is really impressive,” Jenkins said of Bane and Morant. “We need more. We need better.”
Luke Kennard, the NBA’s best 3-point shooter the past two seasons, finished with six points. He hurt his shoulder on a screen and went to the locker room after playing just more than 17 minutes. Jenkins said Kennard had a stinger that would be evaluated.
The Memphis coach used Kennard as part of a small lineup featuring him, Morant, Tyus Jones and Bane, and getting his two best 3-point shooters on the court together more. That helped key the early run where Memphis took a lead it would not relinquish.