LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anthony Davis had 16 points and 14 rebounds while blocking five shots in a spectacular defensive performance, D’Angelo Russell scored a career playoff-high 31 points and the Los Angeles Lakers completed their first-round upset of the Memphis Grizzlies with a 125-85 victory in Game 6 on Friday night.
LeBron James scored 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who emphatically clinched a playoff series in their own arena for the first time since 2012.
The Lakers won all three of their home games in the series, and the final victory was a scary demonstration of their capabilities when James and Davis are both healthy. Davis’ imposing defensive presence largely shut down Memphis’ offense in Game 6, while Russell’s five 3-pointers highlighted an impressive offensive effort from a late-blooming team with championship aspirations.
The Lakers took a 20-point lead in the first half and went up by 36 in the third quarter before coasting to victory before superfan Jack Nicholson and a roaring crowd. James and Davis even got to sit out the entire fourth quarter, preserving their legs for the second round.
The Lakers had to win a play-in game just to reach a playoff series, although this star-studded team is no ordinary seventh seed. Los Angeles opens its next series on the road Tuesday against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between Sacramento and defending champion Golden State.
Ja Morant scored 10 points on 3-of-16 shooting for the Grizzlies, who won 107 games and two Southwest Division titles in the past two seasons, but just one playoff series.
Morant’s injured right hand appeared to hamper his shot, and he seemed unwilling to drive the paint with his usual fearlessness while Davis loomed in the middle. Morant’s teammates couldn’t pick him up: Desmond Bane, who guaranteed a Game 7, had 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting, while Jaren Jackson Jr. had 14 on 3-of-12 shooting.
Dillon Brooks, the Memphis agitator who dismissed James as “old” after Game 2 and then got ejected from Game 3 for striking James in the groin, finished a dismal series performance with 10 points in Game 6 while Lakers fans booed his every move.
The Lakers hadn’t won a playoff series outside the Florida bubble in 11 years, enduring a dismal decade-plus for a 17-time champion franchise with a fan base used to excellence.
James and Davis have won a title together, but they had done little to remember in front of their home fans before the past two months, when their supporting cast markedly improved at the trade deadline with several additions headlined by Russell. The dynamic duo improved to 5-0 in playoff series in which they both appeared in every game together.
The Grizzlies had the second-worst road record among the NBA’s 16 playoff teams in the regular season, and they lost their first four road games against the Lakers this season. They fell into a 3-1 hole in this series with back-to-back losses in Los Angeles, but staved off elimination by winning in Memphis on Wednesday.
Lakers fans sensed the enormity of the moment and turned out in force, highlighted by the return of the 86-year-old Nicholson to his courtside seats after a nearly two-year absence. Their team delivered, jumping to a 20-point lead in the first half and stretching it to 36 in the third quarter.
The Grizzlies played without 3-point threat Luke Kennard due to a sore shoulder, further hurting the depth on a roster already missing injured regulars Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke.
Nicholson watched his beloved team for the first time since October 2021, returning to his usual seats alongside his son. The Lakers’ most famous fan has been a fixture at courtside for the last half-century, and the Oscar-winning actor got a huge ovation from his fellow supporters whenever his face appeared on the scoreboard.
Grizzlies: Kennard went through a pregame workout before getting ruled out. He got a stinger in Game 5. ... Xavier Tillman scored two points in 18 minutes.
Lakers: Nicholson’s return was the highlight of a celebrity-studded night at courtside, where the fans included Larry David, Dr. Dre, Adele and Kyrie Irving, who got a big hug from James before the game. Irving is a free agent this summer, and he has been linked to a reunion with James repeatedly in recent years. ... Austin Reaves had 11 points, eight assists and six rebounds.