On a Sunday afternoon home game, which came on the back end of a back-to-back, the Los Angeles Lakers finished with seven scorers in double figures, three players pulling down double-doubles and a rare victory, 108-103.
The Memphis Grizzlies rested Vince Carter, while Marc Gasol sat out with shoulder soreness, and Deyonta Davis missed the contest with a left foot strain. While the Grizzlies could point to injuries to explain the loss, the Lakers were without Ivica Zubac and Tarik Black due to an ankle and knee injury, respectively.
Lakers coach Luke Walton opted to go with Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram in the front court, though Ingram was on a minutes restriction due to his own knee issue.
Ultimately, though, Sunday provided D'Angelo Russell the perfect opportunity to bounce back following a two-point performance only 24 hours earlier. Russell started with four turnovers and looked awful in the first quarter, but the 21-year-old regained his bearings and entered the halftime intermission with nine points on 4-7 shooting from the field.
Thankfully for the Lakers, Thomas Robinson had a standout performance for the second day in a row. The backup center is a beneficiary of Zubac and Black going down injured, and Robinson finished with 16 points and nine rebounds in the loss to the Clippers on Saturday.
On Sunday, Robinson recorded his first double-double of the season with 12 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and an assist in only 20 minutes. Robinson went coast-to-coast a couple times in the first half and led LA in the scoring department at the intermission.
In the third quarter, Russell got aggressive and took charge of the game. The second-year combo guard scored 10 points in the period to go along with three assists and only one turnover in the 12 minutes following the halftime team talk.
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In the fourth quarter, Russell entered a one-possession game with six and a half minutes remaining in the contest. Immediately, the no. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft drained a three-pointer. Russell added nine points over the final six and a half minutes, which helped cancel out a 14-point fourth quarter from Grizzlies guard Mike Conley Jr.
"I've seen more consistency in his professionalism and in his affecting the outcome of games, whether he is struggling or hitting shots recently," Walton said about his young guard after the game.
Conley, who finished the game with 20 points and 12 assists, hit back-to-back three-pointers in the final minute of the contest to give Memphis a chance to tie the game late. The Grizzlies' point guard got one more look at a potential game-tying three-pointer in the final 10 seconds, but his attempt did not draw iron.
Following Conley's air ball, Julius Randle marched down and converted a couple free throws to ice the game with 5.3 seconds remaining. Randle finished as one of three players with a double-double, as the third-year forward finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Nance finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Robinson's 12 points and 10 rebounds completed the inadvertent promotion for In-N-Out double-doubles.
LA collected its 22nd win of the 2016-17 NBA season. Only five games remain, and LA is now tied with Phoenix for the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst record in the NBA.
If the Lakers and Suns finish in a tie, the Lakers will have a 51.6 percent chance of finishing in the top three of the NBA Draft Lottery. If LA finishes outside the top three, the Lakers will give up their first round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, so as much as Walton and his players seemed relieved to claim a rare victory, fans had to be a bit conflicted on whether or not this was a win worth celebrating.
Inside the locker room, though, the mindset in approaching the final handful of games of the season is clear. The players are focused on improving on the court, rather than planning out their vacations. Sunday provided another example of the Lakers competing with a playoff team.
"How you finish is how you start the next [season]," Nance said after Sunday's game. "We just want to finish strong. Whether that results in wins or losses, we aren't so worried about that, but we have our group of guys that are going to be together for the next couple of years. We just want to grow and get better chemistry and flow into next year on a high note."