The Lakers struggled in the first half of the season and the playoff picture looked slim.
However, after making trades, getting players back from injuries, and changes in lineups they secured a spot in the playoffs. The road hasn’t been easy, but the Lakers won when it mattered most.
The Lakers rose up to the challenge in the play-in tournament as they went on to face the Minnesota Timberwolves and won in overtime to secure the 7th seed position. The Lakers are now facing the Memphis Grizzlies, and are 3 games deep with a 2-1 lead. With that being said, here are 4 takeaways from the first 3 games, and what we should expect to see as the series
1: The Grizzlies Depth doesn’t compare to the Lakers Depth
The Memphis Grizzlies are a great team, however they lack in depth, and we saw that when Ja Morant went down. They adjusted in the 2nd game without Ja and secured the victory but it’s important that we take a look at the Lakers roster as well and digest what their players have done in this series. As expected, Lebron James will continue to put up points for the Lakers, but the players surrounding Lebron James are hard to predict. For the examples we just have to
take a look at what happened in Game 1, and game 3.
In game 1, we saw 3 players other than Lebron James that had 20+ points, and that led to the Lakers coming out as victors as the away team. Austin Reaves had 23 points, Anthony Davis had 22 points, and the most notable player for the Lakers was Rui Hachimura who led the team with the most points at 29 coming off of the bench. Hachimura was effective during the
game as well, going 5-6 from 3, and 11-14 from inside the arc. If we look at game 3, the story gets told there as well for the Lakers as Ja Morant had 45 points, but the Grizzlies still managed to lose that game. In game 2 the Grizzlies were victorious however, their bench was still outscored by the Lakers 27-15. The results have proven that the Lakers are a hard team to scout due to their depth, and that could be detrimental for the Grizzlies as the series goes on.
2: Lebron James isn’t going anywhere
As Mentioned above, Lebron James doesn’t need to be the leading scorer, but that
doesn’t mean he hasn’t been playing up to the hype. The “King” has been putting up great numbers in the postseason and has shown that he is ready for any challenges he will be faced with. To send the Lakers into the Playoffs, James had a 30 point game, and he racked up 10 rebounds as well. He has yet to have under 20 points in the postseason which has helped the
Lakers obtain their 2-1 lead. He not only is playing like a player in his prime, but he is being a leader for this team as well. No one will want to face him in the playoffs, especially with the team he has around him.
In terms of leadership, one of the examples from this series was in game 1. In the fourth
quarter, with 3 minutes left, it was a 1 point game, and Austin Reaves began to get hot. Instead of trying to win the game for the Lakers, Lebron James took a step back and allowed Austin Reaves to have his big moment. By doing that, Lebron James not only gave confidence to Austin Reaves, but he built chemistry. Chemistry was a struggle for the Lakers this season, but they have since moved past that and have become a very dangerous team.
3: The Grizzlies need to play “with” Ja Morant, Not Through him
This statement may come off as confusing so here’s what that means: The Grizzlies rely
too much on Ja Morant to have a good game, instead of using the players around him to elevate his game. Before game 3, the Grizzlies beat the Lakers, and now that Ja Morant was back for the game, the Grizzlies looked like they could get the upper hand. That wasn’t the case. Ja Morant had a great playoff game, but it wasn’t enough to get the Grizzlies the win. Ja Morant had 45 points, 13 assists, and 9 rebounds. 45 points is impressive in the postseason as players
are playing their best game, but the most notable thing was that he had 13 assists. Looking at that stat means he wasn’t being a ball hog, rather the other players weren’t finishing the job.
Relying on one player to score doesn’t work and that’s the same storyline we saw in
Dallas. Both Luka and Morant have been put in a position where the team relies on them, and it ends up hurting the team overall. By playing with these 2 stars instead of through them, these teams could be so much better as we have seen Steve Kerr surround Steph Curry with great role players around him. For example in Game 3, Ja Morant shot above 50% from both 3 and on the inside, but if you just looked at team stats you never would have guessed that. The Grizzlies overall were 37% from the floor, and 33% from 3. If you look at game 2 without Ja
Morant, the team as a whole played their hearts out with all 5 of the starters reaching the double digits, and the bench bringing in 24 points. They weren’t as efficient from the floor either, but they worked together to secure the win and they need to do that throughout the series. Much like Lebron, Ja will be able to score, but it’s up to the team around him to fill their rolls.
4: Dillon Brooks poked the Bear, and it has hurt his team
Dillon Brooks has been notorious for instigating numerous players this season, but he recently decided to “poke the bear” when he went after Lebron James. Not only has this team had its controversies with Ja Morant, but Dillon Brooks chirping hasn’t helped the team either. He had an exchange with Lebron James before game 3 had begun, and fans did not appreciate
that. They proceeded to boo him, and their efforts proved successful.
Brooks proceeded to have one of the worst stat lines a player could have in the playoffs.
He went 3-13 from the floor, 1-5 from 3 and only managed to secure 2 rebounds. He also wasnejected in the 3rd quarter due to a cheap shot to Lebron James. He wasn’t having the best game either, but him being ejected certainly helped the Lakers in securing the win. What to expect from the rest of the Series.
The rest of the series will be an interesting one, as both teams have managed to get the
win over each other. The only problem comes from the Grizzlies side as this series isn’t an all-star vs all-star type game, rather it’s Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Junior vs the entirety of the Lakers. Dillon Brooks’ comments have drastically hurt the team, and we may see the Lakers get the 3-1 lead over the Grizzlies as they face off on April 24th