Los Angeles— For the first time in 10 years, Los Angeles bore witness to a Lakers Playoff game, and Game 3 of Round 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies was arguably the loudest game the team has had all year.
The Lake Show went up 2-1 in this series after having their way with Memphis in a 111-101 win.
“Our crowd was phenomenal.” Darvin Ham said, “We felt them in the building. Thank God, we gave them something to cheer about.”
Los Angeles has a lot of pride because they’ve earned it, but pride isn’t constant, it operates on a dial. Self-respect is the constant, and it's from that place where you can find it in yourself to do what you need to do to crank that dial.
The Lakers did that tonight.
In the previous two games, the Grizzlies outscored the Lakers in each first half. Tonight, the Lakers were up 53-37 after two frames. And they capped off the first quarter holding Memphis below 10, 35-9.
There was a guy (off the bench) who contributed 12 of those first-quarter points and created a commotion in doing so.
Rui Hachimura was 13 years old the last time Los Angeles had a full arena for a Playoff game; it was when he started playing basketball. Tonight, 10 years later, Rui entered the game and felt the full effects of Los Angeles. In a few minutes, Rui went three-for-three. He ended up with 16 points and was perfect from the arc (2-for-2).
“I’ve been practicing the shot all year. I was waiting for this moment,” Rui said after the game.
Yeah, there are few things that dial-up this city’s pride like the Playoffs. The crowd was on their feet from the moment the team ran out. Even the arena’s guest service members quietly celebrated throughout the game. At one point, when a Lakers challenge proved successful, a staff member subtly dipped his head and pumped his fist.
Another thing that gets the Laker faithful going? Loyalty.
After Game 2, Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks made some distasteful comments about LeBron James, and tonight Los Angeles rallied around the 4x Champion. It’s unclear if the chants from an arena full of Lakers fans got in Brooks' head or if he was just cold tonight, but he didn’t score his first basket of the game until four minutes into the second quarter, after going 0-for-5.
Bron got going early. Known around the league as the “ultimate professional”, he let his skills do the talking. For his first basket, Brooks was guarding him (naturally). As Dillon continuously put his hand on LBJ’s forearm, Bron repeatedly slapped it away. Then, James got Brooks jammed up in a pick-n-roll with the assistance of Anthony Davis and closed out the matchup by sinking a fadeaway jumper.
Things didn’t stop there. Just a few minutes into the second half, LeBron was taking it down the floor, Brooks, again, was guarding him and appeared to wind up and nail him right below the belt. Bron hit the deck, and the officials reviewed the play, ultimately tossing Brooks out of the game with a flagrant two.
Memphis’ small forward finished his night with just seven points, two rebounds, and a steal. LBJ finished the night with 25 points, nine rebounds, five assists, a block, and a steal.
“I don’t need to make a statement,” LeBron said after the game. "This is not my first rodeo. I’ve had this throughout my career.”
The point Coach Ham made postgame was this: if you’re going to doubt LeBron, that’s just going to put a fire under him.
After the incident, neither team let up on the physicality. The Grizzlies are known to be confrontational; the Lakers usually pay more attention to the game. But as Memphis continued to play chippy, the Lakers gave it back. They played with a level of tenacity no one had seen this season.
And it just so happens, right then in that third quarter, that’s where Anthony Davis went out of his mind. It felt like with every Memphis jab, Davis answered with a knockout. Memphis would regain their footing and then Davis would hit them with a one-two punch again. AD finished with 31 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks, two assists, and a steal—and he did it all with a stain of blood down his jersey.
There were so many things that riled up the arena tonight, it would take forever to write them all down. Lakers Basketball is back in the Playoffs... in the Playoffs in L.A.
Fittingly, Bron and AD retreated to the locker room, respectively, the exact same way—with a cool, collected swagger.
This town is dripping with pride right now. And the team’s got another opportunity to crank that dial up on Monday night for Game 4 at home.