D'Angelo Russell defends Dillon Brooks
D'Angelo Russell defends Dillon Brooks

Lakers Offense Sputters in Defensive Battle, Grizzlies Even the Series

The Lakers were unable to get a second win in Memphis on Wednesday night and they will head back to Los Angeles with a road split after the Grizzlies showed great determination to get a 103-93 victory to even the series at one game apiece.

The Lakers were never able to get on track offensively against a locked in Grizzlies' defense, shooting 41.2% from the field (35-85) and enroute to 93 points -- their lowest point total this year, and only the 4th time they scored fewer than 100 points at all (and the first time since December 28th in Miami).

Credit Memphis, a top defensive team all season, for bringing the level of effort and execution they did, in particular in how well they were able to close down the paint and swarm Anthony Davis inside to limit his effectiveness offensively. AD would finish the game with 13 points on 4-14 shooting, with most of his misses coming as he tried to score in a sea of bodies who effectively swiped at and deflected shots in the paint after the Grizzlies changed up some of their defensive coverages by switching more ball screens and sending help earlier to AD after those switches.

As he usually is, however, Davis was critical on the other end of the floor in helping to limit the Grizzlies too, blocking five more shots in Game 2 (after his seven in Game 1) while grabbing eight rebounds. Davis was great protecting the paint and showing off his range in covering multiple players all the way out to the perimeter, but Memphis was able to find just enough holes in other areas of the court to keep the Lakers at bay for most of this game.

With Ja Morant sitting out due to his right hand injury, the Grizzlies diversified their offensive attack and played more through Desmond Bane and Tyus Jones in the pick-and-roll as the key driver for their success on that side of the ball. With both Jones (10 points, 4-11 shooting) and Bane (17 points, 6-18 shooting) showing an ability to hit pull up jumpers and floaters, Xavier Tillman benefitted as a release valve and roll man when AD stepped up to help and made the Lakers defense pay repeatedly.

Tillman finished the game with a team-high 22 points on 10-13 shooting to go along with 13 rebounds and three assists. Tillman, seizing the opportunities afforded to him, played assertive and without hesitation to attack the gaps in the Lakers defense and score over and around help defenders.

On the other side of the ball, the Lakers were led by LeBron, who scored a game-high 28 points on 12-23 shooting to go along with a team-high 12 rebounds. LeBron was effective all game, but did a lot of his damage in the 2nd half, helping to keep his team connected after a strong Memphis run got their lead up to 20. Working out of the post more than he did in Game 1, LeBron was able to compromise the Grizzlies' defense and either score himself, draw a foul, or setup a teammate for a makable shot.

Beyond LeBon, Rui Hachimura had another strong game off the bench, scoring 20 points (7-12 shooting) with five rebounds and two assists. Rui became the first Lakers bench player to score 20 or more points in back-to-back games since Magic Johnson in 1996, again flashing his versatility to hit shots from deep and the mid-range while also showing an aggressiveness to get to and score in the paint.

The offensive success of LeBron and Rui, however, wasn't enough to crack the code of Memphis' defense and desperation to get a win, even when shorthanded. Try as they did -- and the Lakers did well defensively to hold Memphis to 42.7% from the field and showed great resolve to climb back into the game after falling down by double digits -- the Grizzlies were able to make the plays they needed to in order to get a win that was critical to their chances of staying in the series.

With that, the Lakers -- now holders of home-court advantage after getting their split on the road -- will try to swing the pendulum back in their direction and retake control in Game 3 when the series resumes on Saturday in Los Angeles.