LOS ANGELES — Hours after coach Taylor Jenkins’ pregame admission that the Grizzlies are “far 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 that allowed the Los Angeles Lakers to force overtime in Memphis’ 117-111 Game 4 loss on Monday night.
Lakers star LeBron James — being defended by Memphis center Xavier Tillman, not small forward Dillon Brooks — drove right for the tying layup with 0.8 seconds left.
That basket prevented the Grizzlies from closing out the game in regulation. They return home for Wednesday’s Game 5 down 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 with 36 points. “I mean, LeBron’s been a strong right-hand driver since he came into the league 20 years ago or however long he’s been in the league. He gets to his right hand, and we got two guys on that side that are supposed to be in help and we didn’t execute.
“It’s pretty much as simple as that. Game-plan discipline — we need it for 48 minutes, and it let us down.”
Brooks and Bane were the two defenders on the right side of the floor who failed to help.
Brooks, who made himself one of the major storylines of the series by boasting that he “pokes bears” and calling James “old” after Memphis’ Game 2 win, declined to fulfill his NBA-mandated media responsibilities for the second straight game.
“I’m out,” Brooks said as he walked past reporters in the hallway outside the Crypto.com Arena visitors 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 did not to make himself available to the media.
Brooks, an All-Defensive candidate who cherished the opportunity to guard the all-time-leading scorer in a first-round series he called a “good test” for the Grizzlies, rarely served as the primary defender on James in Game 4. According to ESPN Stats & Information tracking, James was 4-of-4 from the floor when Brooks was his primary defender, highlighted by James muscling Brooks for a layup that pushed the Lakers’ lead to five with 29.1 seconds remaining in overtime.
James finished 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 primary defender in this series, averaging 1.26 points per play. He is 14-of-41 against the rest of the Grizzlies at 0.75 points per play. That includes 6-of-17 against Tillman, who is starting because of Steven Adams‘ knee injury.
“He’s done great on him,” Jenkins said, explaining the decision to have Tillman instead of Brooks take the defensive assignment on James for most of the game, including the final possession of the fourth quarter.
Tillman blamed himself for allowing James to go right on that drive, but he acknowledged that help should have come from the wing.
“If there’s someone on the wing, then yeah, that’s our game plan to protect the paint,” Tillman said. “If there was, then somebody was supposed to shift.”
Brooks’ offensive struggles continued as he finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting, including 1-of-7 from 3-point range. He is averaging 11.3 points on 33.3% shooting from the floor and 22.2% from 3-point range in the series, as the Lakers regularly sag off him to protect the paint.
Brooks’ shooting misery had plenty of company among his Memphis teammates in Game 4. The Grizzlies shot only 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 got to regroup,” said backup point guard Tyus Jones, who started in place of an injured Morant in Memphis’ Game 2 win but played only nine minutes in Game 4. “Can’t feel sorry for ourselves. Can be frustrated, but at the same time, you got to fix it.”
Bane still expressed confidence that the Grizzlies could come back to win the series, noting that their 35-6 home record was the best in the NBA this season.
“We got two opportunities there,” Bane said. “And in order to win a series, you’re going to have to win one game on the road. When we come back here for Game 6, we’ll come with the right edge and right mentality and steal one on the road and then see what happens in a Game 7.”