The Los Angeles Lakers punched their ticket to the NBA Western Conference semi-finals in emphatic style Friday, mauling the Memphis Grizzlies 125-85 to win their first-round series 4-2.
LeBron James and the Lakers will have to wait to see who they’ll face in the Western Conference semi-finals after the Sacramento Kings fended off elimination, beating the NBA champion Golden State Warriors 118-99 to force a game seven in their series.
The Lakers, who earned the Western Conference seventh seed via the play-in tournament, rebounded with a vengeance after failing to lock up the series in Memphis on Wednesday.
They dominated in every facet in one of their best performances of an often rocky season, thrilling a crowd at Crypto.com Arena that included 86-year-old Oscar-winning actor Jack Nicholson.
Nicholson, a Lakers fan for decades, was in his courtside seat for the first time since last season’s opener in October 2021.
D’Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 31 points. James finished with 22 points and six assists, and Anthony Davis had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
After they “let one go” in Memphis, Davis said, the Lakers weren’t about to miss another chance on their home floor.
“We came out with energy,” Davis told ESPN in an on-court interview. “Our crowd was into it. We came out with a sense of urgency that we’re not going to let them guys come in here and force a game seven.
“We just came out with that mindset of ending it today.”
The Lakers dominated every facet. They outscored the Grizzlies 52-32 in the paint and 24-14 on the fast break.
They out-rebounded the Grizzlies 52-45 and had 20 second-chance points to Memphis’ nine.
They held Morant to 10 points on three-of-16 shooting, with Santi Aldama leading the Grizzlies with 16 points off the bench.
Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane added 15.
The Lakers won a playoff series for the first time since winning the club’s 17th NBA title in 2020, in the Covid-protective bubble in Florida.
They fell to Phoenix in the first round in 2021 and didn’t make it to the playoffs last season. They hadn’t won a playoff series outside the bubble since 2012.
It was a far different story for the home team in San Francisco, where the Kings rebounded from three straight defeats with a comprehensive victory that knotted their series with the Warriors at three games apiece.
Force and energy
“I thought the Kings were the aggressor from the start, putting a lot of pressure on us defensively,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted. “We just never got into our game, but I give Sacramento credit for that.
“They came out with more force and more energy. The right team won tonight, that’s for sure. Now we’ve got to regroup and get ready for game seven.”
The Kings were undaunted by the knowledge that the Warriors were 33-8 at home in the regular season, and had won two home games to claw back into this series after dropping the first two games in Sacramento.
They seized a quick 8-0 lead to set an early tone and after a string of lead changes pushed the advantage to double digits in the second quarter.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the star-studded Warriors couldn’t get the deficit below five points the rest of the way.
Malik Monk scored 28 off the bench and point guard De’Aaron Fox added 26 for the Kings, who are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and have a chance to take the series on Sunday.
“We wanted to hit first, hit second, and hit last, and I think we did a good job of that tonight,” said Fox, who again excelled despite playing with a broken left index finger.
Rookie Keegan Murray scored 15 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for Sacramento. Kevin Huerter and Trey Lyles added 12 apiece as the Kings withstood every Warriors attempt to rally.
Center Domantas Sabonis finished with seven points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with five minutes remaining— sporting a black eye from taking an elbow on a jump ball in the second period.
Curry led the Warriors with 29 points and five assists, and Thompson added 22, but they got little support.
Andrew Wiggins chipped in 13 for Golden State, but Kevon Looney and Jordan Poole had just seven apiece and the Kings’ bench outscored Golden State’s reserves 52-21.
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