NBA playoffs: Grizzlies' Ja Morant, Desmond Bane combine for 64 points to force Game 6 against Lakers
Memphis Grizzlies guards Ja Morant and Desmond Bane combined for 64 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists in a 116-99 blowout of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, forcing a Game 6 in their first-round series. The second-seeded Grizzles trail the seventh-seeded Lakers in the best of seven, 3-2.
Game 6 is scheduled for Friday night in Los Angeles at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The blistering effort by Morant and Bane spoiled double-doubles from Los Angeles' Anthony Davis (31 points, 19 rebounds), LeBron James (15 points, 10 rebounds) and D'Angelo Russell (11 points, 10 assists). Austin Reaves added 17 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists for the Lakers in defeat. By night's end, James looked tired, Reaves was limping on a balky knee and Davis was slow to get up from a fall on his tailbone.
"It's our home floor, home crowd, and we feed off their energy," Morant, who finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and just 2 turnovers in 38 minutes, told TNT's Allie LaForce. "Every time we play in this building, they bring it every time for us and give us the energy we need to go get a win."
Energy is made from mass and velocity; nobody embodied both better than Bane and Morant in Game 5. On the backs of their backcourt, the Grizzlies pushed the pace from the jump against a Lakers team that prefers to grind in the halfcourt, where Davis and company own the West's best defense in the playoffs. Memphis thrust a 14-point, first-quarter lead to 56-39 inside the five-minute mark of the second quarter.
A Reaves 3-pointer and his no-look alley-oop to James sparked an 8-0 run over the next two minutes, cutting the Lakers' deficit to nine, and there the margin remained until halftime, when Memphis led, 61-52.
LeBron James with the block and finishes the lob from Austin Reaves 🔥 pic.twitter.com/Zn50hCGpE8
— Backcourt Alerts (@BackcourtAlerts) April 27, 2023
Morant and Bane either scored or assisted on 50 of Memphis' 62 points at the break, combining for 39 points on 15-of-27 shooting and 5 assists through two quarters. Los Angeles' backcourt had no answer.
Morant showed no ill effects from his bruised shooting hand. He attacked the rim with his customary relentlessness, including a put-back dunk over Davis that was emblematic of Memphis' must-win effort.
Davis had a double-double at the half (18 points, 10 rebounds) for the third time in his career, but James lagged behind the young Grizzlies, entering the break with almost as many turnovers (five) as points (six on 2-9 FG). Reaves, Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura were the ones helping Davis keep the Lakers afloat.
Russell ignited an 8-0 run to open the second half, slashing Memphis' lead to 62-61, and the Lakers remained within striking distance until the four-minute mark of the third quarter, when Reaves missed a 12-foot floater that would have given Los Angeles its first lead since the game's opening minute.
Then, the bottom fell out on the Lakers. A Santi Aldama tip-in ignited a 26-2 response that left the Grizzlies leading 101-76 inside of 10 minutes remaining in the game. Even as Memphis went five minutes without a field goal in the middle of the the final quarter, the Lakers never climbed their way back within single digits.
Late in the third quarter, when Morant was 25 points into his night, LaForce reported, "He spent the entire last timeout showing the athletic trainer that his right knee was bothering him to the point when she pushed on it, it made him jump. She looked him in the eye and said, 'Can you go right now?' And he said, 'Yes.'"
The knee did not appear to slow Morant, either. He remained on the court late into the fourth quarter, when he scored or assisted eight straight Grizzlies points to stave off the Lakers' last hope at a comeback. After the game, Morant acknowledged some pain from "a knot" in his knee, but he expects to be fine in Game 6.
Grizzlies wing Luke Kennard left with a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter and did not return. He called it "a stinger" following the game, telling reporters, "I’ll do whatever I can to try to get it right and play Friday."