Morant’s 27 points help Grizzlies defeat Lakers

MEMPHIS, TENN (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies snapped their five-game losing streak by beating the team they could face in the playoffs if they hold on to the last spot in the Western Conference.

Rookie Ja Morant had 27 points and matched his season high with 14 assists, and the Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Lakers 105-88 yesterday.

“We just locked in, stayed focussed, learnt from our losses and came out and played a full 48 (minutes),” Morant said. “We were able to come out with a great win.”

Dillon Brooks added 24 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 22 points and 20 rebounds as the Grizzlies helped their chances of keeping the eighth spot in the West. Memphis hold a two-game edge on the New Orleans Pelicans, who were idle yesterday and play the Lakers today. The San Antonio Spurs, who beat Orlando 114-113 yesterday, trail Memphis by three.

“We knew they were going to play with desperation. They are currently the eighth seed in the playoffs and lost five straight,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Our guys have done a great job most of the year of playing with energy and matching the home team. We just fell short of that.”

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant drives ahead of Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley. PHOTO: AP

LeBron James had 19 points and 10 assists, while Anthony Davis finished with 15 points and nine rebounds as Los Angeles lost for only the second time in February. The 88 points was a season-low for the Lakers, who shot 41 per cent for the game, including only nine of 36 from three-point range.

The Lakers, the top team in the West, entered the game on a seven-game winning streak, but trailed by as many as 22 in the third quarter as Memphis continued to get balanced scoring. The Lakers brought James into more of an active role and a couple of three-pointers started the second half.

But Memphis continued to extend the lead and held an 86-66 advantage entering the fourth.

The Memphis lead dropped to single digits with just under seven minutes left after a 7-0 Lakers run. But Memphis immediately built the lead back to 18 near the three-minute mark, and Vogel put in his reserves.

“They just played a great game. Shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter,” James said. “Ja made four 3s. Dillon was really good all game and Valanciunas, I think he had like 50 rebounds the last two games. They just played a really good game and kept us at bay.”

The Grizzlies hadn’t won since the All-Star break and their hold on the final playoff spot had started to dwindle. But, at least outwardly, the young Grizzlies seem to keep their composure.

“We understand there’s going to be adversity,” Morant said. “So, there’s no reason to panic. We’re going to control what we can. That’s how we play on the floor.”