Conley, Grizzlies dent Lakers’ playoff hopes in 110-105 win

MEMPHIS, Tenn (AP) — The Lakers got a triple-double from LeBron James and 32 points from Brandon Ingram but still suffered another dent to their playoff hopes.

Mike Conley had 30 points including key free throws in the final minute, Jonas Valanciunas finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat Los Angeles 110-105 on Monday night.

The loss to the Grizzlies, in next-to-last place in the West, came two days after the Lakers lost 128-115 to the Pelicans in New Orleans. That game had James wondering if his teammates’ lack of experience in the playoff hunt had them prepared for the pressure and grind of trying to reach the postseason.

This time, James, who finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, couched his comments with optimism, saying it is up to him and his teammates to continue their push.

“Just to stay positive and keep knocking on the door,” James said when asked about improving through the final stretch of the regular season. “I feel like if we play like we did (Monday), then we’ve got to continue that consistent effort to get us over this hump while we make this push.”

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (R), Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (C) and Grizzlies forward Justin Holiday attempt to take control of the ball. – AP

Kyle Kuzma finished with 22 for Los Angeles, which is tied with Minnesota in 10th place in the Western Conference — three games out of the final playoff spot occupied by San Antonio.

“I was very pleased with the effort and the togetherness of our group,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said.

“I thought we got back to what we were doing earlier in the season. Unfortunately, we didn’t make enough plays.”

Joakim Noah had 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Avery Bradley scored 15 points for Memphis, which ended a four-game skid.

Memphis led 105-98 with 1:42 left, but a three-pointer from Kuzma and layup from James pulled the Lakers within 105-103 with a minute left.

Conley converted three of four free throws down the stretch, and one Lakers possession ended with an offensive foul on James. An airball on a three-point attempt by James with 16 seconds left gave the Grizzlies the ball with a 108-103 lead.

Bradley made a pair of free throws with nine seconds left to provide the winning margin.

It was the first time that Valanciunas had been a part of a win at FedExForum since joining the team at the trade deadline.

“It felt really good and was really needed,” the seven-foot centre said. “It’s fun to play with this group.”