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LeBron James, Lakers take series lead despite nearly crumbling vs. Grizzlies

Anthony Davis had 31 points and 17 rebounds, LeBron James finished with 25 points after Dillon Brooks was ejected for striking him in the groin, and the Los Angeles Lakers survived Ja Morant's 24-point fourth quarter to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 111-101 Saturday night for a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Morant scored 45 points in his return from a one-game absence with a sore right hand, even scoring 22 consecutive points during his stunning fourth quarter while Memphis attempted to rally from an early 29-point deficit. Morant also had 13 assists and nine rebounds, but the second-seeded Grizzlies couldn't come all the way back after scoring a franchise-low nine points in the first quarter.

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Rui Hachimura scored 16 points in another strong effort off the bench for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who came out impressively in their first home playoff game with a capacity crowd in 10 years. Los Angeles tied an NBA record by taking a 26-point lead into the second quarter, and Memphis couldn't get closer than 13 points until the final two minutes. Game 4 is Monday night in Los Angeles.

Brooks was ejected 17 seconds into the second half after the Memphis agitator struck James in the groin while guarding him near midcourt. While the top scorer in NBA history rolled on the court in pain, officials tossed Brooks after a brief video review.

With the Lakers' sellout crowd booing his every move, Brooks had just seven points on 3-for-13 shooting before his ejection. He drew the Lakers fans' ire for his behavior during and after Game 2, when the 27-year-old Brooks called the 38-year-old James "old" and belittled James' abilities.

Lakers vs. Grizzlies getting chippy

This rivalry stayed chippy in the third quarter, with Lakers forward Hachimura getting a technical foul for a furious reaction to a foul.

Aside from the physical play, the Lakers were in control of Game 3 until the Grizzlies made it mildly interesting late, never getting closer than nine points.

Morant wore a black brace and padding on his hand and appeared tentative with it at times, but Memphis' leading scorer started slowly before rounding into his usual unguardable form in the fourth quarter.

Desmond Bane scored 18 points for the Grizzlies.

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A frenetic crowd showed up for the Lakers' first playoff game in 10 years with a full arena, and Brooks' provocative behavior provided a perfect outlet for the fans' energy. The fans booed Brooks in pregame warmups and each time he touched the ball before his ejection - but more importantly, the Lakers played with a similar edge from the opening tip.

Los Angeles rushed away to a double-digit lead and went up 35-9 after one quarter while the Grizzlies flailed offensively, going 3 for 25 with six turnovers. Brooks was particularly bad, missing 10 of his first 12 shots and making little impact on defense.

The Lakers led by 29 in the second quarter before Memphis finally shook off its road jitters and made a 10-0 run to close the first half, trimming its deficit to 16.

Grizzlies: Brooks is the only player in franchise history to be ejected from multiple playoff games. He has been ejected six times in his six-year career, and he served two suspensions this season for an accumulation of technical fouls. ... Memphis hadn't played a postseason game in Los Angeles since 2013.

Lakers: D'Angelo Russell scored 17 points. He had a four-point play in the first quarter, the Lakers' first such play in a postseason game since Kobe Bryant did it in 2009. ... The 17-time NBA champions' last playoff game with a full crowd was in 2013. The Lakers missed the next six ensuing postseasons, and their 2020 championship run occurred in the Florida bubble. They hosted three first-round games in 2021 with a half-full arena due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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