Tyreke Evans Powers Grizzlies Past Brandon Ingram, Lakers

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2017

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 27: Tyreke Evans #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies shoots the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 27, 2017 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies found the cure to their Mike Conley-less struggles—a matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Memphis went into the Staples Center on Wednesday and earned a 109-99 victory behind 32 points, seven assists and seven rebounds from Tyreke Evans. The Grizzlies were a mere 3-18 since Conley suffered an Achilles injury before Wednesday's win but had too much firepower for the Lakers.

Los Angeles was playing without Lonzo Ball and dropped to 11-22 and 1-7 in its last eight despite 23 points from Brandon Ingram and 22 points from Jordan Clarkson.

This is still a rebuilding season for the young Lakers, and one area of intrigue when the schedule came out were the matchups between Ball and the best point guards in the league. Wednesday's game figured to fit the bill with Conley leading the way for Memphis, but injuries cost fans their chance to see the showdown.

Instead, Evans made sure the Grizzlies didn't feel the sting of Conley's injury at least for the night.

He demonstrated his versatility throughout the contest, handling the ball on the perimeter as a de facto point guard for stretches and looking for his own shots off the ball in others. He caught fire right before halftime and scored 10 points in the final three minutes of the second quarter as Memphis turned a 40-39 deficit into a 54-47 advantage.

Los Angeles used a 20-14 run of its own to end the third quarter and tie things up heading to the fourth, but Evans and the Grizzlies shifted into takeover mode for the closing stretch. Evans made Ingram look helpless as he gave the visitors a double-digit advantage and essentially put the Lakers away:

He also put the finishing touches on the victory with seven clutch free throws in the final two minutes, ensuring the Lakers wouldn't make any late charges in the closing moments.

Grizzlies PR put Evans' performance and recent hot streak into perspective:

It wasn't all Evans, as Jarell Martin challenged for a double-double with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Marc Gasol added 11 points, nine boards and five assists while anchoring Memphis' interior defense.

Gasol stepped aside for the hot hand in Evans when it came to the scoring, but his all-around performance proved critical when the Los Angeles offense went missing at inopportune times.

The big man finished with three blocks, but his presence went beyond the raw statistics. He altered a number of other Lakers shots throughout the game, helping hold the home team to an abysmal 5-of-20 shooting in the first quarter and keeping it in check as Memphis pulled away in the fourth.

At least Larry Nance Jr. figured out a way to get past the defense:

The young Lakers battled back from a double-digit hole in the third quarter but ran out of steam in the fourth and couldn't keep up with Evans and Co. even with Nance's high-flying acrobatics. It was no fault of Ingram's or Clarkson's, as they carried the offense without Ball serving as the facilitator, but the team as a whole shot just 37.6 percent from the field.

As has often been the story this season, the talent was apparent for the Purple and Gold a number of times, but they are still searching for the consistent ability to finish close contests even against lackluster competition.

They will look to turn things around Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers, while the Grizzlies face an imposing challenge against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

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