The Los Angeles Lakers opened their post-All-Star break schedule with a 117-105 win over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies on Friday at Staples Center in what may be a potential Western Conference first-round playoff preview.
Lakers big man Anthony Davis crushed the Grizz on both ends with 28 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks despite missing part of the first half to a right calf injury suffered one minute into the game. He posted his stat line in just 31 minutes.
LeBron James led all scorers with 32 points on an efficient 10-of-17 clip, and Avery Bradley added 14 points and three steals.
Grizzlies forward Josh Jackson led his team with 20 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Ja Morant added 17 points.
Memphis played the second half without forward Jaren Jackson Jr., who missed the frame with left knee soreness.
The 42-12 Lakers won their fourth straight and sixth in seven, while the 28-28 Grizz have lost two consecutive games.
Grizzlies PG Ja Morant: 17 PTS, 3 AST
Grizzlies F Josh Jackson: 20 PTS, 3 REB
Grizzles C Jonas Valanciunas: 8 PTS, 11 REB, 2 STL
Lakers G/F LeBron James: 32 PTS, 7 AST, 2 BLK
Lakers F/C Anthony Davis: 28 PTS, 13 REB, 7 BLK, 4 AST
Lakers G Avery Bradley: 14 PTS, 5 REB, 3 STL
Lakers Overcome Anthony Davis Injury Scare to Win 4th Straight
The air went out of Staples Center after Jackson Jr. accidentally hit Davis in his right calf as the two tried navigate around a Jonas Valanciunas screen:
Seeing Davis walk off on his own power was encouraging, but his going to the locker room was not. Davis is one of the game's best players and an integral part of Los Angeles' efforts to win its first NBA title in 10 years.
A game was on hand, though, and the Lakers needed to regroup without one of their two superstars. Their ability to do so was one of the biggest reasons for their victory.
Danny Green and LeBron connected on the play of the day, a sky-high alley-oop:
Kyle Kuzma replaced Davis in the lineup and scored six points. Avery Bradley did a little of everything with four points, four rebounds and two assists.
And James led the way with nine points, helping L.A. establish a cushion.
When Davis checked back in with 8:28 left in the second, the Lakers found themselves up 38-29.
The Lakers cruised to a 60-41 halftime lead before floundering and watching that edge fall to four points in the fourth. But L.A. was able to maintain its edge because of Davis, who looked perfectly healthy as he glided through the air on both ends to make plays:
Davis also posted a line not seen since another legendary Laker did so:
Ultimately, Davis is one of the league's best players, and he doesn't need much court time to change a game. On Friday, he dominated when available to help the Lakers finish the night five games ahead of the second-place Denver Nuggets in the West.
Grizz Traveling Down Slippery Slope After 2nd Straight Loss
The Grizzlies sit 28-28 in eighth place in the Western Conference, a spot few thought they would be in this late in the season.
After all, they had just a 25.5 over/under win total, per Caesars Palace. That mark was the third-lowest in the league.
All they have done since then is eclipse that mark by the second week of February en route to being on track for a playoff berth on a rebuilding team led by Morant and Jackson Jr.
This season is already a massive success, but a playoff appearance would be an added bonus. However, that looks a bit more tenuous by the night.
First, Memphis' schedule is not easy. In fact, the Grizzlies have the hardest strength of schedule the rest of the way, per Tankathon, with their opponents having a 55.5 percent winning rate.
Second, the team's primary contenders for the eighth spot have easier slates, with the Pels sporting the easiest winning rate at 45 percent. The Blazers (fifth-easiest) and Spurs (eighth-easiest) aren't far behind.
Third, the Pels are now running with a healthy Zion Williamson, who is meeting the massive preseason hype after sitting the first three months with a torn meniscus. New Orleans is 6-5 with him in the lineup versus 18-27 otherwise. The team is only four games back of Memphis after its win Friday.
This is a crucial time to maintain a comfortable lead. Road games against the playoff-bound Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets await, and that's before another home date with the Lakers before the end of the month.
Memphis is in trouble of falling below .500 before March, leaving the door open a little wider for the rest of the pack.
But if there's anything we've learned about the Grizz, it's that they're a resilient, fearless group capable of beating any team. They've hung with some of the league's best teams and beaten them, including the Clips and Denver Nuggets. There's reason to believe they can weather this stretch and do the same again.
The Grizz won't have to travel for their next road game, which will take place against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday at 10:30 p.m. ET. They'll round out a four-game Western Conference road swing against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on Wednesday at 8 p.m.
The Lakers will continue a three-game homestand against the Boston Celtics on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.