LeBron James has once again proven his status as a basketball superstar, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 117-111 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA playoffs. With just 0.8 seconds left in regulation, James made the tying layup, before scoring four of his 22 points in overtime to seal the win for the Lakers. The 38-year-old also made a career playoff-high of 20 rebounds and seven assists, while committing just one turnover in his 270th playoff game, extending his own NBA record.
James’ performance marks the first time a Lakers player has scored 20 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in a playoff game since Shaquille O’Neal in 2004. “He just took over down the stretch,” said Lakers player Anthony Davis of James’ contribution. “All our guys, it was a good team effort. This team is not going to go away.”
Austin Reaves scored 23 points and Davis had five of his 12 in overtime for the Lakers, who are now on the brink of their first playoff series victory outside the Florida bubble since 2012, having won two straight home games.
Game 5 of the series will take place on Wednesday night in Memphis, with the Grizzlies having to rally from a 3-1 series deficit to advance in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Desmond Bane scored 36 points and hit a tiebreaking layup with 6.7 seconds left in regulation for the second-seeded Grizzlies, but it wasn’t enough to turn the game in their favor. Ja Morant scored 19 points with his injured right hand, but was blocked by Davis at the regulation buzzer. The Grizzlies then missed six of their first eight shots in overtime while committing two key turnovers.
Dillon Brooks, who previously referred to James as “old” after Game 2, had 11 points for Memphis after getting ejected from Game 3 for striking James in the groin.
Despite the Lakers trailing for much of the second half, Davis blocked four shots, and the team excelled whenever the big man was protecting the rim. Morant’s 45-point performance in Game 3 wasn’t enough to dig the Grizzlies out of an early 29-point hole in his first game back from an injury absence with a sore right hand.
The Grizzlies fell behind by an NBA record-tying 26 points after a historically bad first quarter in Game 3, but made significant improvements in their start in Game 4.
Game 4 also saw a celebrity-studded sellout crowd in attendance, with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle watching from a luxury box. Other attendees included Edward Norton, Adam Sandler, USC coach Lincoln Riley, and Diddy.
The series schedule sees Game 5 take place on Wednesday, April 26, in Memphis, with Game 6 on Friday, April 28, in Los Angeles, and Game 7 on Sunday, April 30, in Memphis if necessary.
This victory comes after a difficult start to the season for the Lakers, who began with a 2-10 record and later traded former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook to the Utah Jazz. Earlier in the year, all eyes were on LeBron James as he broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record, cementing his place in basketball history.