Evans’ 32 points guide Grizzlies past stagnant Lakers
LOS ANGELES — Guard Tyreke Evans scored 32 points despite a sore right knee to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a 109-99 win over the offensively sluggish Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday at Staples Center.
“The past two games, I’d been struggling with my knee,” Evans said. “I’ve been trying to get my body right. I was close (to not playing), but once I started moving ... I felt pretty good.
“I wanted to win and help my team win. That’s what I did.”
Memphis (11-24) led much of the way but never by more than nine points until a 15-5 run in the fourth quarter pushed the advantage to double digits. The Grizzlies then held off the Lakers down the stretch, with Los Angeles failing to cut the deficit below six points near the end.
The Grizzlies had five players score in double figures. Forward Jarell Martin had 20 points, guard Andrew Harrison recorded 15 points, center Deyonta Davis scored 14 points, and center Marc Gasol finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots.
“This is who we need to be,” Memphis interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We’ve had those pockets where we struggled offensively, but the more active we are offensively, the more thrust we play with.”
As Memphis shook off its offensive doldrums, Los Angeles fell into a funk of its own.
With a shoulder injury sidelining rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, the Los Angeles offense stagnated and appeared out of sorts for long stretches in the first half. The Lakers opened shooting just 1 of 10 from the floor and wound up 5 of 20 for the first quarter.
Ball’s absence became most evident as the Lakers (11-22) combining for just five assists through the first 21 minutes. Ball’s 7.1 assists per game lead a team output of 23.2, eighth best in the NBA, but Los Angeles managed just 14 assists on Wednesday.
“We miss Lonzo for a (variety) of different reasons. He’s just that type of player,” forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “He gets it out on the (fast) break for us.”
The lack of fast-break opportunities was evident with the Lakers scoring just four points in transition.
“They had a lot of rebounds, but other than that, we did a solid job of stopping them in transition,” Evans said. “We pushed the pace when we had the chance, be aggressive.”
Poor ball movement kept Los Angeles from getting cleans looks, and the result was a night of 37.6 percent shooting from the floor and 28.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
“We know how important (Ball) is to us ... and the way we want to play,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “He pushes the ball (and) just hits whoever is open every time.”
The Lakers’ scoring woes carried over to the free-throw line. Los Angeles came into the game ranked dead last in the NBA at 69.2 percent shooting from the stripe, then made just 21 of 33 (63.6 percent) against Memphis.
Forward Brandon Ingram, who led the Lakers with 23 points, shot just 5 of 11 from the foul line. Los Angeles guard Jordan Clarkson connected on 5 of 9 3-point attempts en route to 22 points.
Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma’s run of consecutive games scoring in double figures ended at 11. He went to the locker room with 5:57 remaining after coming down awkwardly defending a Memphis shot. Kuzma returned shortly thereafter, but he made little impact, finishing with nine points on 4-of-24 shooting.
“I was very happy about the shots. I thought they were all, for the most part, pretty good, open shots,” Kuzma said. “It just wasn’t falling tonight. As a professional, you’re going to have those nights. Everyone’s had those nights, and tonight was mine.”
Nance led the Lakers’ reserves with 12. Nance matched Gasol and Los Angeles center Andrew Bogut with a game-high nine rebounds.
NOTES: Lakers F Kyle Kuzma’s 4-of-24 shooting from the floor and 1-of-11 from behind the 3-point arc were both season worsts. ... The Lakers outrebounded the Grizzlies 49-37 and scored 23 second-chance points to Memphis’ 12. ... The Grizzlies enjoyed an 18-10 edge in points off turnovers. Memphis committed 11 turnovers to the Lakers’ 12. ... The Lakers play host to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. ... The Grizzlies play the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday.