LeBron James’ Lakers take 3-1 series lead with wild OT win over Grizzlies

LeBron James and the Lakers didn’t make it easy, but they survived a wild and ugly Game 4 against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night in Los Angeles.

The Lakers advanced in overtime to defeat the Grizzlies 117-111 in their opening round playoff series. It gave LA a 3-1 series lead and pushed the Grizzlies to the brink of elimination in Wednesday’s Game 5 at Memphis. The Lakers haven’t gotten past the first round of the playoffs since their title run in 2020 amid the Covid-19 bubble.

The Lakers opened the extra period on a 5-2 burst and took a three-point lead after Anthony Davis tipped in a missed bucket at the rim. Then, after a stop on the other end, James hit the rim and made a layup off a Dillon Brooks foul to put the Lakers up by five with 28 seconds left.

A stop at the other end sealed the Lakers’ six-point victory.

James led Los Angeles with 22 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists. He became the first Lakers player to record at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a playoff game since Shaquille O’Neal in 2004.

LeBron James and the Lakers are now the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. 2 are one win away from upsetting the standings. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY)

“He understands the timing of everything,” Lakers head coach Darwin Hamm said of James. Via NBA reporter Mark Medina. “Knowing what happened yesterday and not knowing tomorrow makes him even more grounded in today and in this moment. All his journeys, all the amazing things he’s done, he still has that passion and that passion. Stay on top and position his team the right way to win. That’s what you saw.” . . . That’s who he is his whole life.”

While the overtime finish was impressive, it was a wild streak to end regulation that got them there in the first place.

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The Lakers force overtime after a wild final 10 seconds

The Grizzlies looked like they were winning at Crypto.com Arena on Monday night.

Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. came up with a big block on Rui Hachimura that sparked a fast break and forced Ja Morant to run the other way. Morant then fed it to Desmond Bane, who put Memphis up by two with 6.1 seconds left on the clock.

That’s when James took over. James, after catching an inbounds pass, drove straight to the rim and put his own rebound over Jackson to tie the game.

The bucket was James’ first of six attempts in the fourth quarter.

The Grizzlies had one last shot at a game-winner at the other end, but Davis denied Morant’s final shot.

The Lakers should have had an easy win after their first half performance. They jumped out to a 14-point lead early in the second quarter, and the Grizzlies looked completely out of sync. Memphis picked it up just before the half, however, and a Penn 3-pointer just before the buzzer capped a 14-1 run. That cut the Lakers lead to two points.

The Grizzlies kept it going in the third quarter, and Morant ended the period with a buzzer-beating dunk to go back up by two.

The Lakers offense was struggling. After shooting 0-for-5 from the field, Davis had two points at halftime, and Jarrett Vanderbilt was their leading scorer for much of the third quarter.

But D’Angelo Russell quickly broke out in the fourth, drilling three straight 3-pointers to keep the Lakers in it and tie things up late. It led to a ridiculous final sequence and extra time.

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Bane led the Grizzlies with 36 points and seven rebounds. Morant added 19 points and seven assists, and Jackson finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Austin Reaves led the Lakers with 23 points. Russell finished with 17 points, and Vanderbilt dropped 15 points. Davis, after struggling early, finished the day with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys for the postseason, and I understand that,” James said on TNT. “It’s my job to make sure they’re consistent and to understand that one game isn’t going to define the whole series, but I want us to be good, and I want everybody to be comfortable when we go out on the floor and play free. . . about Xs and Os and technical things and all that stuff. I care. I can do it.”

Game 5 of the series is scheduled for Wednesday night in Tennessee.

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