The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 127-119 on Sunday, Jan. 9. It was the third straight win over the Lakers for the Grizzlies, and the final score was not indicative of the beatdown. Memphis scored 42 points in the third quarter and led by 29, prompting Lakers’ star LeBron James to get angry over what he thought was poor sportsmanship by the Grizzlies.
ok so Desmond Bane said something that LeBron was extremely displeased about so he decided to do this after the free throws at the other end pic.twitter.com/E5PDFo7Vue
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 10, 2022
The Grizzlies were bouncy and livelier on Sunday. As the lead grew so did their exuberance and James took it personally. On a drive to the rim the Grizzlies Desmond Bane was fouled by James and the two shared some words. As players on both sides looked to deescalate the situation, LeBron was overheard on TV saying:
“I’m not chillin’! Stop talking sh*t!”
Nothing out of the ordinary for a basketball game. But James felt some kind of way. Such is life in the NBA in year 19.
LeBron has done his fair share of dancing, taunting and stuntin’ on opponents throughout his career. Rightfully so. When you win or are winning you can do all the talking you like. Those are the rules.
But when you’re getting punked, you can’t whine or cry about it. Getting embarrassed on your home court? Play better. It’s pretty simple.
The thing is, LeBron is playing as well as he possibly can. He had 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. The next best Lakers in terms of scoring were Wayne Ellington and Austin Reaves. Both scored 16 but mostly when the game was already decided.
Yes, Anthony Davis is injured but the Lakers need to play better. The roster, as currently constructed, is what LeBron signed off on. Russell Westbrook has not worked out, and if Malik Monk and Avery Bradley are your starting backcourt that’s simply not good enough.
Prior to Sunday’s loss the Lakers were on a season-high four-game win streak. But they’re overall numbers are still in the bottom third in the league. They rank 22nd in adjusted net rating, 23rd in adjusted offensive rating, and 20th in adjusted defensive rating.
Those numbers are through 41 games. It’s no longer early; we are halfway through the NBA season.
Conversely the Grizzlies are the hottest team in the league, winners of nine straight. Sixth in adjusted net rating, fourth in adjusted offensive rating, and 12th in adjusted defensive rating. Ja Morant will likely make his first All-Star appearance, Jaren Jackson Jr. is showing the two-way dominance that got him selected fourth overall in 2018.
Players like Bane, Brandon Clarke and others are developing into a supporting cast ready to make their first playoff run.
Times are changing in the NBA.
At an average age of 30, the Lakers are the oldest team in the league, at 24.2 the Grizzlies are the second-youngest. Experience matters, and you can’t place a value on it. But you need young legs to navigate the regular season. For success in the playoffs you need a mix of both.
Maybe Davis comes back, LeBron continues his stellar play and the Lakers go on a run and avoid the play-in tournament. Anything is possible.
But LeBron’s reaction to the young Grizzlies doing their thing is emblematic of a man that knows time is running out.
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