LOS ANGELES (AP) — When LeBron James got back to the Los Angeles locker room after Game 4, his fellow Lakers greeted him with a symphony of bleats.
They were simply saluting the G.O.A.T. in his own language to celebrate a performance that was anything but old — and a gritty win that put the Lakers on the brink of the second round.
James made the tying layup with 0.8 seconds left in regulation before scoring four of his 22 points in overtime, and the Lakers surged to a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series with a 117-111 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.
The 38-year-old James also grabbed a career playoff-high 20 rebounds for the first 20-20 game of his 20-year career. The top scorer in NBA history added seven assists and two blocked shots while committing just one turnover in his record 270th playoff game.
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“I just try to be as great as I can be offensively, but more importantly on the defensive end,” James said. “That was the mindset tonight. I was able to make a couple of plays. … My teammates told me I had 20 and 20. It’s the first time I’ve done it in my career, so that’s pretty cool, I guess.”
James never responded with words after Dillon Brooks dismissed him as “old” following Game 2 last week, but his play continues to make the Grizzlies’ agitator look just as hubristic and foolish as he sounded. It has also put the second-seeded Grizzlies on the precipice of first-round elimination.
Austin Reaves scored 23 points and Anthony Davis had five of his 12 in overtime for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who won two straight home games to move one win shy of their first playoff series victory outside the Florida bubble since 2012.
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“He just took over down the stretch,” Davis said of James. “Got us a bucket to get to overtime. … All our guys, it was a good team effort. This team is not going to go away.”
Los Angeles surged back from a seven-point deficit with five minutes left in regulation with a rally that abruptly began when D’Angelo Russell hit three consecutive 3-pointers, and the Lakers never trailed in OT.
“I’m so proud of our guys, the way we fought,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “We found a way.”
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Memphis.
Desmond Bane scored 36 points and hit a tiebreaking layup with 6.7 seconds left in regulation for the Grizzlies, who will have to rally from a 3-1 series deficit and win a Game 7 for the first time in franchise history to advance. Bane scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, but was held scoreless in overtime, missing his only two shots.
“Obviously, LeBron gets to his right hand, which can’t happen at the end of the game,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Some breakdowns for us. Very disappointing loss.”
Ja Morant scored 19 points with his injured right hand, but Davis blocked his jumper at the regulation buzzer. The Grizzlies then missed six of their first eight shots in overtime while committing two key turnovers.
Brooks had 11 points for Memphis after getting ejected from Game 3 for striking James in the groin. Brooks and Morant both declined to speak to reporters afterward.
James coolly scored the basket that forced overtime over heavy defensive pressure, and he hit a huge layup while getting fouled to put the Lakers up by five with 29.1 seconds to play in OT. James flexed and roared at the ecstatic Lakers crowd after that shot, celebrating one of the most exciting moments of his five-year Lakers tenure.
“I’ve been a part of moments where you know you get a dagger play or a killshot,” James said. “I felt like that play — it wasn’t going to close the door, but there wasn’t much light at the end. I just let the emotion come out.”
Dennis Schröder and Austin Reaves buried two free throws apiece to seal the Lakers’ 12th win in 15 games dating to the regular season.
The Lakers trailed for much of the second half, and Davis didn’t look sharp for much of Game 4 while struggling with an apparent hip injury that required a heating pad on the bench. But Davis blocked four shots, and the Lakers 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 his sore hand. He then reacted with obvious pain after he jammed the hand into the ground again during the third quarter of Game 4, but kept playing and even dunked on Rui Hachimura an instant before the quarter buzzer.
Grizzlies: Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe watched the game from courtside. Sharpe, a Fox Sports commentator and a huge LeBron fan, got into a shouting match with several Grizzlies and Morant’s father during their visit to face the Lakers in January, requiring security to intervene. There was no apparent drama this time out. … Jaren Jackson Jr. kneed Schröder very near the groin while setting a screen in the fourth quarter, but assessed only a common foul after video review.
Lakers: The celebrity-studded sellout crowd included Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who watched from a luxury box. Edward Norton, Adam Sandler, USC coach Lincoln Riley and Diddy also attended. … Jarred Vanderbilt scored 15 points and even hit his first 3-pointer in 20 days during the first quarter. His impressive defense has been more valuable than his balky offensive game for the Lakers, who quickly put him in the starting lineup after his arrival at the trade deadline. ___
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