LeBron James, Lakers work OT to beat Grizzlies, take 3-1 series lead

LOS ANGELES — The Crypto.com Arena court was no place for the faint of heart Monday night.

The Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies renewed their hostilities in Game 4 of their increasingly contentious first-round playoff series, with bodies flying around the court at breakneck speed and with every possession contested as if it might be the last one of the 2022-23 season.

The customary 48 minutes were not enough to decide what loomed as a pivotal game, with LeBron James sending the game to overtime with a driving layup with 0.8 seconds remaining in regulation after the Grizzlies’ Desmond Bane had put them ahead with a layup with 6.7 seconds left.

James then sealed the deal in the extra period with a driving layup and a flex, propelling the Lakers to a 117-111 victory and a 3-1 series lead with the last of his 22 points. James’ basket sent the crowd into a frenzy with 29.4 seconds remaining and capped a game in which he had a career-high 20 rebounds and seven assists in 45 minutes.

Dennis Schröder and Austin Reaves buried two free throws apiece to seal the Lakers’ 12th win in 15 games dating to the regular season.

Reaves had a team-leading 23 points for the Lakers. D’Angelo Russell had 17, doing some of his best work of the series with a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter before fouling out.

Bane led Memphis with 36 points.

The Lakers sent the best-of-seven series back to Memphis with a chance to close it out in Game 5 on Wednesday night at FedEx Forum. The winner moves on to play the winner of the Golden State-Sacramento series in the second round.

The Grizzlies had zero interest in returning home with zero margin for error. They lost Game 1 on their home court before rebounding to win Game 2. They were then run off the floor in the opening minutes of Game 3 inside a raucous Crypto.com Arena and were never in the game.

Each of the four games has played out differently in terms of tone and feel. The tactics have largely remained the same, with the Lakers trying to get the most out of their supporting cast and the Grizzlies trying to ensure James and Anthony Davis don’t shred them.

Memphis was at its best when it denied Davis the necessary time and space near the basket. The Lakers were at their best when they made sure to get Davis involved early and with the ball in his hands in the right places at the right times. It was a struggle for both teams at times.

The Lakers missed their first six shots and trailed 6-0 to start Game 4.

Suboptimal, to say the least.

If you had Jarred Vanderbilt as the Lakers’ leading scorer with 10 points by the end of the first quarter on your bingo card, well, congratulations. The Lakers, sparked by Vanderbilt’s perimeter shooting, found their rhythm and confidence in due course and led comfortably for most of the first half.

In fact, they built a 15-point lead late in the second quarter despite getting only two points from Davis on 0-for-5 shooting. They seemed poised for a double-digit lead by halftime, but the Grizzlies suddenly got hot, going on a 14-1 run to close the half and pulling within 54-52.

Vanderbilt, James and Austin Reaves each had 11 points in the first half for the Lakers. James didn’t attempt a shot until the final moments of the first quarter, finally trying and making a 3-pointer that gave the Lakers a 29-23 lead and brought the sellout crowd of 18,997 to its feet.

Vanderbilt averaged 4.0 points in the first three games of the series and was scoreless on 0-for-1 shooting in the Lakers’ victory in Game 3 on Saturday. Davis, averaging 22 points, didn’t make his first shot in Game 4 until hitting a hook in the paint in the opening moments of the third quarter.

The Lakers managed to hold the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant in check for most of the early minutes after he torched them for 45 points in Game 3, including a staggering 22 in a row in the fourth quarter at one point. Morant had only seven points on 3-for-9 shooting in the first half of Game 4, but the Grizzlies had a more balanced offense.

Despite the Lakers’ occasional flashes of brilliance, the game was very much up for grabs heading into the second half. The Lakers had staggered the Grizzlies by building a 35-9 after the first quarter of Game 3, but that was a distant memory as the teams returned to the Crypt for Game 4.

The Lakers surged back from a seven-point deficit with five minutes left in regulation with a rally that abruptly began when Russell hit three consecutive 3-pointers, and the Lakers never trailed in OT.

More to come on this story.

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