LeBron James made sure the Lakers felt the urgency needed for a game that could clinch the first round of the playoffs. Their ecstatic fans were constantly asking them to end a frustrating decade with no postseason celebration on their home field.
The confluence of all that passion with Anthony Davis’ spectacular defensive performance meant that the Grizzlies didn’t stand a chance.
Davis had 16 points and 14 rebounds, blocked five shots, and, dominated on the court, D’Angelo Russell broke his postseason record by 31 points and Los Angeles defeated Memphis 125-85 on Friday in Game 6 of the series to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
James added 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting for the Lakers, who finished seventh in the regular season and clinched a playoff series at home for the first time since 2012.
“We had a Game 7 mentality,” James said. “We understood that we had the opportunity to play in front of our fans and we wanted to try and win it (the series) tonight. We go out with discipline. We have been focused on our game plan from the beginning until the last few seconds.
The Los Angeles team won all three games of their home series. And the latest win was an intimidating display of what this team can accomplish when James and Davis are healthy.
Davis’ impressive defensive presence virtually shut out the Memphis offense in Game 6 of the series. Meanwhile, Russell’s five 3-pointers illustrated good a offensive performance from a team that stumbled for months but now boasts legitimate championship aspirations.
The Lakers took a 20-point halftime lead and extended it to 36 in the third quarter. In the end they struck a blow in the eyes of their ardent supporter, actor Jack Nickolson, and an audience that surrendered at the feet of the team.
James and Davis allowed themselves the luxury of missing the entire fourth quarter, conserving energy for the second round, where they will meet the team that will win Sunday between Sacramento and Golden State, the reigning NBA champion.
“This is just getting started,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “We are past level 1. Now we need to start focusing on who will come out on top of that match on Sunday. LeBron shared some very wise words after the game. He concerns both us and the adversary. We have to be our best version.”
Santi Aldama and Desmond Bane led the Grizzlies with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Memphis has won 107 games and two Southwest Division titles in the past two years, but only one playoff series.
“In my opinion, we haven’t played our best basketball in these six games,” said Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins.