Despite the Memphis Grizzlies talking a big game before Game 6, they were proven wrong in emphatic fashion on Friday. Even Desmond Bane’s guarantee that the series would return to Memphis for Game 7 couldn’t stop the Los Angeles Lakers from dominating the court.
Los Angeles Lakers outscored Memphis Grizzlies by 40 points in a 125-85 victory that sealed the series to advance to Western conference semifinals. Los Angeles Lakers will now await the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 clash between the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
Although D’Angelo Russell led the charge with 31 points and LeBron James wasn’t far behind with 22, the real star of the game was Anthony Davis. Davis displayed one of the most impressive defensive performances ever seen, despite only registering five blocks.
Memphis Grizzlies‘ average of 58.4 points in the paint per game this season was no match for Davis’ dominance, as they were limited to just 32 points on Friday. The Lakers’ well-rounded performance was nothing short of remarkable, leaving the Grizzlies to reflect and regroup for next season.
Takeaways for the Lakers
DeAngelo Russell excels in playoff victory
It’s no secret that D’Angelo Russell has struggled in the playoffs. During his time with the Brooklyn Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves, he shot under 35% from the floor, and even in this series, his performance was lackluster, except for a game-saving stretch in Game 4.
In the first five games, he averaged just 13.8 points per game on 36.8% shooting. The Lakers are in desperate need of a secondary scorer, with LeBron James, who’s 38 and dealing with a foot injury, unable to carry the load alone. The pressure is even higher for Russell, as he is a free agent this offseason, and his possible replacement, Kyrie Irving, was watching the game courtside.
Russell delivered in what was arguably the most pressure-packed game of his career. He set the tone for the Lakers by scoring 10 points in the opening quarter and finished the game with a team-high 31 points. It was the perfect performance the Lakers needed from Russell.
DeAngelo Russell dominated the pick-and-roll, exploiting the smaller Memphis guards, and knocked down five of the nine 3-point attempts he took. Russell capitalized on catch-and-shoot opportunities created by his teammates, displaying his range and accuracy.
Los Angeles Lakers require their point guard to deliver performances like Russell’s in this game. The perfect iteration of Russell is a player who can take the lead on offense and maximize the opportunities created by teammates such as James, Davis, and Reaves. The Lakers witnessed that version of Russell on Friday, and it resulted in their most significant win of the season.
Double triumph for the Lakers on Friday
While Los Angeles Lakers were primarily focused on securing their own series win on Friday. There was another crucial game being played across the state. Just before the Lakers and Grizzlies took to the court, the Golden State Warriors had an opportunity to close out the Sacramento Kings on their home floor. Had the Warriors succeeded, it would have resulted in a Sunday start for the Lakers and Warriors’ second-round series.
The outcome, however, was not in favor of the Warriors as the Kings emerged victorious. This turn of events had two crucial implications for the Lakers. Firstly, it gives them with an opportunity to avoid facing Stephen Curry and the Warriors in the second round. While the Kings have performed impressively, the Lakers would likely opt to compete against a team making its first playoff run in 17 years rather than a four-time champion.
Secondly, and possibly more significantly, the Lakers get several days of rest. As a result, the start of their second-round series has been scheduled back to Tuesday.
Although two additional days off may not seem like a significant advantage, it is a crucial one for the Lakers. The NBA has already released the schedule for their second-round series, which will feature games every other day for two consecutive weeks. The Lakers have already adhered to this schedule, playing three consecutive games and even traveling to Memphis and back in that span of time.
Expecting a 38-year-old LeBron James to immediately board a flight to San Francisco for Game 1 would have been challenging. With the extra rest, he and his team can relax at home and watch as the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings battle it out for another Game on Sunday, knowing that they will be well-rested when they face the victor on Tuesday.
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