Lakers start slow (again), heat up late in win over Memphis

Anthony Davis scores 35 points in return from Achilles issue
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The Los Angeles Lakers once again played possum with their opponent at the Staples Center.

As they have done throughout the team’s current winning streak, Los Angeles sputtered to start the game. However, LeBron James and the rest of the Lakers eventually got going, taking the lead for the first time late in the third quarter and running away from the Memphis Grizzlies in the fourth for a 115-105 victory on Friday.

The Lakers outscored Memphis 41-23 in the third quarter, which including a deep 3-pointer by James just before the clock expired as he waved to imaginary fans in the stands afterwards.

Slow starts remain an issue for Los Angeles. The Lakers fell behind by at least 20 points in the first half for a second straight game and have trailed after the opening quarter in the last four games.

“We tend to come out and kind of feel out the game a little bit,” Lakers center Marc Gasol said about his team’s early game struggles. “See how they’re playing, what they’re trying to do offensively and defensively.

“We kind of sometimes predetermine how we want to play early on, and then obviously we have a lot of guys with a very high (basketball) IQ, and we’re able to adapt to the challenge that they pose.”

Anthony Davis had a big game in his return to the lineup after missing two games with an Achilles issue, finishing with 35 points and nine rebounds. James added 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

The Lakers improved to 21-6 with the victory and improved their winning streak to seven games. The Grizzlies fell to 10-11 on the season.

Ja Morant finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Memphis.

Top player: Kyle Kuzma had another impressive performance off the bench, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

What I liked: The Lakers led the Grizzlies in bench points, 41-20.

What I did not like: The Lakers trailed 56-43 at halftime, the team’s largest halftime deficit this season. Los Angeles turned the ball over 18 times and Memphis scored 29 points off those turnovers.

Injuries: Montrezl Harrell suffered an elbow to the head on a collision with teammate Kyle Kuzma as he drove to the basket early in the fourth quarter. Harrell had to go to the locker room for further evaluation, but returned. Anthony Davis (Achilles), Alex Caruso (hand) and Jared Dudley (calf) all returned to the lineup and were available for Lakers head coach Frank Vogel on Friday.

They said it: “What we have to do is we have to continue to commit to shot quality. Our execution in some of these games hasn’t been up to par. And that was a big focal part of our practice yesterday (Thursday)” – Vogel on trying to rectify his team’s shooting struggles of late from beyond the arc. L.A. shot 6-of-30 (20 percent) from the 3-point line against Memphis.