LOS ANGELES — A familiar pattern has dropped into Lakers games.
The Lakers play well, sometimes all the way to the final few seconds, and then they lose.
Then came Friday at Crypto.com Arena. The Lakers played well against the Memphis Grizzlies…and won?
Indeed, they ended the Grizzlies’ 11-game winning streak with a 122-121 victory that almost salvaged a five-game home stand and proved the Lakers still had a little fight in them.
The Lakers’ hero was undeniably Dennis Schroder. He stole the victory in a very real way.
Memphis led by a point and inbounded the ball by their bench to Desmond Bane with 17.8 seconds left. Schroder slipped behind Bane, wrenched the ball away and took off toward the other end.
Schroder scored on a layup and was fouled. He made the free throw to give the Lakers a two-point edge with 7.1 seconds left.
“That’s what we drew up in the timeout. We said we were going for the first trap, go for the steal,” LeBron James told Spectrum SportsNet. “We followed the game plan and that’s what happens when we execute.”
The game wasn’t quite over.
Ja Morant missed a runner in the lane but Lakers forward Wenyen Gabriel was called for a foul while pursuing the rebound with 1.9 seconds left. Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke made the first free throw to bring Memphis within one. He missed the second free throw, giving the Lakers the win.
The last three losses for the Lakers (21-25) had been by a total of 10 points.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham knew what to credit Friday.
“I just think our resolve,” he said. “Our guys showed a lot of character, a lot of fight. We never got too down.”
James had a subdued scoring game, making only eight of 21 shots on the way to 23 points. If he’s tired, it makes sense. He’s been playing heavy minutes while Anthony Davis, Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves remain sidelined by injuries.
“That’s what the job is calling for right now. That’s my job description,” he said. “It calls for me to go out and be even extraordinary at times. It is what it is.”
The Lakers concluded a 2-3 home stand by getting crushed in the rebounding department. Memphis (31-14) took a stunning 24 offensive rebounds and, no surprise, controlled the points in the paint and second-chance points as well.
Morant (22 points) missed a lot of shots, but it didn’t matter because his teammates often got the rebound. Memphis center Steven Adams led the way with eight offensive rebounds. The Lakers had only 10 offensive rebounds as a team.
Russell Westbrook had 29 points for the Lakers, who have experienced some brutal losses but also own two victories over Denver and now one over Memphis. The Nuggets have the best record in the West, followed by the Grizzlies.
The Lakers tried just about everything to counteract Memphis’ size advantage on offense. They even intentionally fouled Memphis players late in the fourth quarter. It didn’t succeed when Adams made both his free throws, as did Brandon Clarke.
One of Adams’ free throws bounced high off the back of the rim, hit the top of the backboard and rolled through the hoop.
It could have represented the Lakers’ night in a nutshell. It didn’t. Not this time.