LeBron James, Anthony Davis help Lakers survive depleted Grizzlies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The standings don’t reward quality of performances. Only wins and losses.

And at this point in the season, the Lakers need any wins they can get to avoid being locked into the 10th seed in the Western Conference – a spot that hasn’t advanced any teams from the play-in tournament to the first round of the playoffs.

Even ugly wins such as the Lakers’ 123-120 road victory on Friday night over the decimated Memphis Grizzlies, who had 13 players sidelined.

Scroll through the box score and the Lakers’ performance looks more impressive than it is.

LeBron James (37 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Anthony Davis (36 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two blocks) led the Lakers the best they could.

Their offense was humming all night, with the Lakers shooting 51.9% (42 for 81) from the field. Rui Hachimura added 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, while Austin Reaves had 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting while battling through foul trouble.

But the Lakers practically took their feet off the pedal after taking a 34-26 lead at the end of the first quarter and a game-best 13-point lead (50-37) midway through the second.

Their turnovers (19 giveaways for 26 Grizzlies’ points) and early defensive rebounding struggles, which led to the Grizzlies scoring 11 second-chance points in the first, helped the Grizzlies find their offensive rhythm.

And once the short-handed hosts found that rhythm, it was challenging for the Lakers to get them out of it, especially with how lackadaisical they were defensively for most of the night.

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After cutting their deficit to 68-64 before halftime, the Grizzlies led by as many as nine in the third (91-82) before the Lakers ramped up their defensive intensity, helping them take a narrow 99-98 lead heading into the fourth.

The Lakers led 115-114 with 2½ minutes left, when Hachimura grabbed a pair of James’ missed 3-point attempts before getting fouled on a putback dunk. He made both free throws for a 117-114 lead.

GG Jackson, who led the Grizzlies with a team-high 31 points, dunked through the Lakers’ defense on Memphis’ next possession to cut the margin back to one with less than two minutes left.

Davis, returning from a left eye injury that kept him out of the Lakers’ loss to Golden State on Tuesday, missed a pair of free throws after getting fouled while going for a defensive rebound with 1:23 remaining.

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Jake LaRavia, who added 28 points and six assists for Memphis, made a pair of free throws to give the Grizzlies a 118-117 lead with just over a minute left. James made a layup to put the Lakers back up by one with 44 seconds left.

After forcing an empty Grizzlies possession, James made a pair of free throws to put the Lakers ahead 121-118 with 15.5 seconds left.

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James threw down an emphatic dunk in transition after another empty Grizzlies possession to seal the victory for the Lakers.

The Lakers moved to 46-35 with the victory, keeping alive their hopes of moving up the Western Conference standings with Golden State (45-35) and Sacramento (45-35) both playing later Friday night.

More to come on this story.

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