After a start to the regular season that did not meet expectations, the Los Angeles Lakers will embrace another chance to participate in the NBA in-season tournament when they play host to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.
The Lakers were just 3-5 and on a three-game losing streak when they played their first in-season tournament game Friday and pulled off a 122-119 victory on the road against the Phoenix Suns.
Los Angeles rode the momentum from that contest to earn a 116-110 home victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday in a game that was not tournament-related. The Lakers prevailed despite LeBron James sitting out for the first time this season while nursing a left calf contusion.
James is listed as questionable to return on Tuesday.
The Lakers believe they have uncovered a strategy that has helped forge back-to-back victories. Because of slow starts, Cam Reddish has been used as a starter the past two games, while Austin Reaves has come off the bench.
Los Angeles still trailed after one quarter against the Suns, but the Lakers’ 31-28 lead after 12 minutes against the Blazers, helped by 10 points from Reddish, was the first time they led after one period this season.
There still is work to be done for Lakers coach Darvin Ham. As nice as it was to pull off the victory Sunday, the Blazers were extremely short-handed because of injuries.
“As we get more comfortable and familiar with one another, as we continue to plant the seeds and water them, I think you’ll see the growth here pretty soon,” Ham said. “You’re already seeing flashes of it. … Guys (have) been missing out of the lineup at various times, but just the core belief of the way we have to play in order to win games, it all starts on the defensive end.”
The Grizzlies have remained in Los Angeles after earning a 105-101 victory over the Clippers on Sunday afternoon. It was just the second victory this season for Memphis, and it came with a huge effort from Desmond Bane, who scored nine of his 27 points in the fourth quarter.
Memphis led by as many as 15 points in the second half and was up 82-68 early in the fourth quarter before the Clippers rallied to tie it with 6:38 remaining. It was a back-and-forth game from there until a late 5-0 scoring burst put the Grizzlies up 103-98 with 25.6 seconds left.
Marcus Smart had 17 points and Bismack Biyombo added 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Grizzlies, whose only other victory this season came on Nov. 5 at Portland. Memphis is 0-2 in tournament play.
“Offensively, chemistry is taking time with guys in and out and some new offensive philosophy things, but the guys are staying committed to the duration of the season and just taking a one-day-at-a-time mentality,” said Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins, who won’t get star point guard Ja Morant back from his 25-game suspension until mid-December.
“We just gotta stay together, stay positive. It’s been very impressive to watch, but we still have a long journey ahead of us and a lot of ground to make up, but just one day at a time.”
–Field Level Media
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