LOS ANGELES — Hours after coach Taylor Jenkins admitted before the game that the Grizzlies are “a long way from where we need to be from a maturity standpoint,” shooting guard Desmond Bane blamed a lack of game plan discipline for the defensive failure , which allowed the Los Angeles Lakers to force overtime in Memphis’ 117-111 Game 4 loss Monday night.
Lakers star LeBron James – who was being defended by Memphis center Xavier Tillman rather than small forward Dillon Brooks – drove to the right for the layup with 0.8 seconds left.
This basket prevented the Grizzlies from usually finishing the game. They return home for Wednesday’s fifth game, trailing 3-1 in the series and on the brink of elimination.
“It always comes down to game plan discipline,” said Bane, who led the Grizzlies by 36 points. “I mean, LeBron’s been a strong right-hander since he came into the league 20 years ago or how long he’s been in the league. He comes to his right hand and we have two guys on this side that are supposed to be in help and we haven’t run.
“It’s as simple as that. Game plan discipline – we need her for 48 minutes and she let us down.”
Brooks and Bane were the two defenders on the right side of the floor who didn’t help.
Brooks, who made himself one of the series’ key storylines by boasting that he “pokes bears” and calling James “old” after the win in Memphis, declined to fulfill his NBA-mandated media responsibilities for the second game to be fulfilled in succession.
“I’m out,” Brooks said as he walked past reporters in the hallway outside the Crypto.com Arena attendees’ locker room.
All-star point guard Ja Morant, the face of the Grizzlies franchise, who finished with 19 points on 8-of-24 shooting, also didn’t make himself available to the media.
Brooks, an all-defensive contender who cherished an opportunity to protect the all-time leading scorer in a first-round series he described as a “good test” for the Grizzlies, rarely served James as the main defense in Game 4, according to ESPN Stats & Information Tracking was James 4-of-4 from the floor when Brooks was his main defender, highlighted by James who muscled Brooks for a layup that took the Lakers lead to five, with 29.1 seconds remaining in overtime .
James finished the game with 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting, a career playoff-high 20 rebounds and seven assists.
James is 12 of 20 with Brooks as his main defense in this series, averaging 1.26 points per game. He’s 14 of 41 against the rest of the Grizzlies at .75 points per game. That includes 6-of-17 against Tillman, starting because of Steven Adams’ knee injury.
“He made him great,” Jenkins said, explaining the decision to let Tillman take over defensive duties for James in place of Brooks for most of the game, including the final possession in the fourth quarter.
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Tillman blamed himself for allowing James to go straight onto that drive, but he conceded help should have come from the wing.
“If someone’s on the wing, then yeah, that’s our game plan to protect the color,” Tillman said. “If so, then someone should switch.”
Brooks’ offensive struggles continued as he finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting, including 1-of-7 from 3-point range. He averages 11.3 points on 33.3% shots from the ground and 22.2% from 3-point range in the streak as the Lakers regularly bag him to protect the paint.
Brooks’ passion for shooting had plenty of company among his Memphis teammates in Game 4. The Grizzlies shot just 39.6% from the floor, including 9 of 42 from 3-point range.
“At this point in the season it’s win or go home so we have to regroup,” said backup point guard Tyus Jones, who started in place of an injured Morant in Memphis’ Game 2 win but only nine in Game 4 Minutes played “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. Can be frustrating but at the same time you have to fix it.”
Bane nonetheless expressed confidence that the Grizzlies could return to win the series, noting that their 35-6 home record is the NBA’s best this season.
“We have two choices there,” Bane said. “And to win a series you have to win a game on the road. If we come back here for Game 6 we’re going to come with the right edge and mentality and steal one on the street and then see what happens in a Game 7.”