The Los Angeles Lakers open the second half of their regular-season campaign with a three-game homestand, starting Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Los Angeles rides a three-game winning streak into the contest, which includes a 120-116 overtime victory over the Denver Nuggets in their finalgame before the All-Star break on Feb. 12. LeBron James led the way with his 12th triple-double of the season with 32 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds. James is tied with Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks with the most triple-doubles in the league this season.
James and fellow All-Star Anthony Davis have carried the Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference at 41-12. They are four games ahead of the Nuggets and five better than the Los Angeles Clippers in the standings.
James, who leads the NBA in assists at 10.8 per game, has scored 25 points and 7.8 rebounds per outing in 51 games.
Davis is putting up a team-high 26.6 points and 9.2 rebounds in 46 games. He also has recorded 2.4 blocks per contest, which ranks third in the NBA behind Portland's Hassan Whiteside and Milwaukee's Brook Lopez.
"We have two of the best players in the world and a great support system around them," said Lakers coach Frank Vogel, according to the Los Angeles Times. "To reach the conference finals, the NBA Finals and win a championship, a lot of things have to fall your way. I'm hopeful we're able to achieve that."
James said the Lakers' chase for the title begins in earnest against the Grizzlies.
"The stretch run, we know how important it is, how important every game is and how we continue to get better and better and better each and every day," said James, according to the Times. "It's all part of the process. Can't shortcut the process. We're not going to think too far ahead. We're going to approach (Friday) like this is our own Game 7. We play the Memphis Grizzlies and we need to go at them as we know they're going to go at us and we just build on that."
The Grizzlies began a four-game road swing with a 129-125 loss at Sacramento on Thursday. De'Anthony Melton came off the bench to score 24 points, converting 5-of-10 3-pointers, while rookie sensation Ja Morant added 19 points. Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 16 points.
The Grizzlies rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter before falling. Three free throws by Melton with 7.5 seconds remaining pulled Memphis within 125-124 before Kings guard Buddy Hield clinched the win with four free throws down the stretch.
The Lakers won the previous two meetings against the Grizzlies, including a 109-108 win at Memphis on Nov. 23. James had 30 points, while Morant finished with 26 points and five steals for the Grizzlies. In their last trip to Los Angeles, the Grizzlies were smoked 120-91 by the Lakers on Oct. 29.
The two clubs meet again Feb. 29 in Memphis.
--Field Level Media