MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Facing a Grizzlies team missing its superstar in Ja Morant, with a chance to go up 2-0 in their first-round series, Anthony Davis piled up too many missed shots in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 103-93 loss on Wednesday.
“Obviously, I can be better,” Davis said after failing to connect on 10 of his 14 shot attempts and finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in 38 minutes. “Can’t have a night like I had tonight and expect us to win.”
It was a rough outing for Davis, from his 1-for-9 start from the floor in the first half, to the gash he suffered below his right brow from an elbow during a jump ball at the center circle, to the stellar play by the big man lined up against him. Grizzlies center Xavier Tillman had 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting and 13 rebounds — more points than he has scored in any game (regular season or playoffs) in his three-year career.
“Just forcing tough catches, denying him, forcing him off his spot and then crowding the paint and tilting behind him,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said when asked to explain what Memphis did in holding Davis to about half of his regular-season 25.9 points per game average.
While Davis took the onus for the outcome, he didn’t credit his clanks to the Grizzlies’ defense.
“I like all the shots I took,” Davis said. “I just missed them. A lot of shots close to the rim I normally make, go in. Flush it and get ready for [Saturday].”
He wasn’t the only Lakers starter off his game. D’Angelo Russell scored just five points on 2-for-11 shooting. He had nearly as many turnovers (three) as assists (four) and was whistled for five fouls.
“I was just missing shots,” Russell said, echoing Davis. “I liked the shots I was getting. Honestly. Just missing them.”
Russell was then asked what he can do as a point guard to get Davis more involved, and he took exception to the assigned role.
“I’m a basketball player,” he said. “You can’t keep saying ‘point guard.’ I’m a basketball player.”
And the Lakers are a No. 7-seeded basketball team that missed a golden opportunity to put itself in the driver’s seat to become the first group to knock off the No. 2 seed in the first round since the San Antonio Spurs in 2010.
L.A. trailed 30-19 after the first quarter, coughing up five turnovers leading to 10 transition points for the Grizzlies. Memphis’ lead ballooned to as many as 20 in the third quarter before the Lakers went on a 17-3 run to make a game out of it.
Rui Hachimura scored 11 of his 20 points in the third, becoming the first Lakers player with 20-plus points in back-to-back playoff games since Magic Johnson in 1996.
L.A. never cut the gap any closer as Memphis, which had the league’s best home-court record at 35-6 during the regular season, kept up its streak of not losing consecutive games at FedEx Forum since the 2022-23 campaign started.
Morant, who stood by the end of the bench for most of the night, wearing a black sweatshirt, green baseball cap and gray protective glove on the bruised right hand that kept him out, watched as Tyus Jones (10 points, eight assists, six rebounds) capably filled in for him.
“They have proven in the last two years that they play really good basketball with or without him,” Austin Reaves said. “So, we knew it was going to be a challenge. They were desperate and they played harder than us.”
LeBron James, who led L.A. with 28 points and 12 rebounds, looked forward to Saturday’s Game 3 — which will be the first full-capacity Lakers playoff game in L.A. since he signed with the team in 2018. Attendance was limited in 2021 because of COVID-19; the Lakers’ 2020 title run was played at the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida; and the team missed the postseason in 2019 and 2022.
“I believe this is our first game at the house [with a full crowd], huh? Ain’t it?” James pointed out to Davis, sitting beside him at the postgame podium. “First time. So, I’m excited for that.”