The lay-up and the next free throw – they could have been bigger.
Short-handed and short against the towering Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers absorbed every nudge from one of the best teams in the West.
But they never flexed. And as a potential Brandon Clarke free throw bounced off the rim, the Lakers did the unlikely.
Somehow, on a night when LeBron James Struggling and the Grizzlies seemingly catching every possible bounce, the Lakers left the ground as winners, with a win over Memphis 122-121 And ending her winning streak in 11 games.
“Hell game” Lakers coach Darvin Hamm He said.
The only other win came against Houston.
“We’ve shown what we can be and what we can do,” Hamm said.
But Friday’s game overshadowed much of Hamm’s message over the past eight days – keep working, keep fighting and a breakthrough will come.
Memphis got 22 points Ja Morant But he needed 29 shots – the Lakers stopped him while attempting a perfect shot with the Westbrook defense.
“I know I’m a very good defender,” Westbrook said.
The win comes as more good news may be on the way.
The Lakers can pretend to stay shy, trying to remove some of the pressure from the schedule and reduce the potential for disappointment in the event of a setback.
But all signs continued to point to Davis’ eventual return next week – a crucial step for the organization as it tries to determine its future.
According to sources familiar with the plan, if Davis remains pain-free in his rehab from three foot ailments, he will be back on the court next week in Los Angeles before leaving the Lakers for a five-game trip against the Celtics, Nets, Knicks, Pacers and Pelicans.
The Lakers have not publicly set a timeline for Davis’ return.
When he returns, the Lakers will have critical ground to compensate, and good teams come to Lakers home stadium and leave with a hard win. But Friday’s win over the Grizzlies showed the Lakers can get over the hump against top rivals.
The Lakers hung with the Grizzlies after Memphis broke out after a very slow first quarter, but the best defense in the NBA stifled the Lakers and made every basket feel earned.
With Davis no longer present, Memphis celebrated with an offensive glass, outscoring the Lakers 39-22 on second chance points.
It could have – maybe should have – meant a loss. Instead, it meant momentum.
Davis missed 18 games with a host of foot injuries including a bone spur and a stress reaction in his right foot. Prior to his injury, he was averaging 27.4 points, 12.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 2.1 blocks. Without Davis this season, the Lakers are 9-12.
Pregame, Hamm wouldn’t explain any of Davis’ recovery plan other than the one he was scheduled to do Saturday’s “1-on-0 workout.”
“He responded well. He’s progressing as expected with the plan that was put in place and heading in the right direction,” Hamm said before the match.
Getting Davis back — and keeping him on the court — should give the Lakers clarity as they head toward the February 9 trade deadline trying to figure out just how aggressive they have to be.
“We maintained a zero schedule throughout the process.” Ham said before the match. “And we throw different things at him.”
The Lakers should have news about Walker IV soon as his knee is being reevaluated this Saturday. Hamm said Reeves, who is out with a hamstring injury, is ready to be re-evaluated in a week, saying Walker is closer to a return.
The Lakers and Grizzlies played an almost physical basketball half that stretched in half. The Grizzlies’ players took on former NFL tight end and Fox Sports host Shannon Sharp in the first half. Sharpe then got into an argument with T. Morant, Ja Morant’s father.
Sharpe was escorted back by security before returning to his seat on the court for the second inning. T. Morant and Sharp hugged before the fourth quarter began.
The battle on the field, especially down the stretch, was even more fierce – the Lakers were huge and outgunned the men as they swarmed every loose ball.
And when they needed one most — a stop and win at the end — they managed to do it.
“You don’t know you can do it unless you can do it,” Hamm said. “…goes a long way for our spirit, our mindset, and our collaboration.”
This story originally appeared Los Angeles Times.