The Los Angeles Lakers will begin their first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies on the road, marking only the second time in LeBron James’ 16 playoff appearances that he starts off on the road.
The Lakers, seeded No. 7, will face the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies, but Lakers big man Anthony Davis does not see a significant disparity between the two teams. “I think seeding doesn’t matter,” Davis said. “Once you get in, it’s all about matchups and things like that. We don’t look at ourselves as underdogs, obviously.”
The Lakers are entering the playoffs as winners of 10 of their last 12 games and 19 of their last 29, including a 108-102 overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. LeBron James echoed Davis’ point about the playoffs providing a blank slate, saying,
“It’s 16 teams in the postseason, and there’s opportunity for all 16. Everyone’s record is 0-0 now and we’re playing against a very worthy opponent and we respect them a lot. So we just got to be ready for the challenge.”
The Grizzlies are led by All-Star guard Ja Morant, who has upped his regular-season averages from 22.4 points and 7.4 assists to 28.2 points and 9.2 assists per game in the postseason. They also have a top Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Jaren Jackson Jr. and a budding star in Desmond Bane.
The Grizzlies ranked third in defensive rating (the Lakers were 12th), 11th in offensive rating (the Lakers were 19th), and second in fastbreak points per game (the Lakers were fourth).
Lakers coach Darvin Ham emphasized that the Lakers’ mindset will matter as much as their schemes, stating, “At the end of the day, if you go out with energy, effort, and urgency, and you’re ready to compete, usually that figures itself out.”
The last time the Lakers made the postseason, in 2021, they were also the No. 7 seed and had a 2-1 lead over the No. 2 seeded Phoenix Suns before Davis suffered a groin injury, and the Suns won in six games. James stewed over the Lakers’ failure to qualify for the playoffs last season, claiming to have tuned into each and every single postseason game from the outside looking in.
When asked if the postseason ever gets old, James replied, “No, never.” He also revealed what he missed the most about the playoffs when the Lakers did not make it last season, saying, “I’d rather play in them than watch them.”
LeBron James: A hard to match Postseason Legacy and the Pursuit for More
LeBron James is a basketball legend with a Hall-of-Fame career that includes four NBA titles, four Finals MVP awards, and a 65% career winning percentage in the postseason. His impressive postseason track record includes winning 31 playoff series between 2011 and 2020, which surpasses Michael Jordan’s career total of 30.
James is often compared to Jordan in the “Greatest of All-Time” conversation, and while opinions may vary, there is no disputing his incredible achievements. His most memorable NBA Finals victory was in 2016, when his Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team to win the title after being down 3-1 in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors. James averaged 29.7 PPG, 11.3 RPB, and 8.9 APG in that series.
Having spent most of his career in the Eastern Conference, James has dominated many of its teams. However, he has also faced several Western Conference rivals during his four-year tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers.
While the Lakers have only gone deep into the playoffs in one season, any team with a healthy LeBron James always has a chance to win, regardless of the rival, court, or stage.
As James prepares to face his 23rd different rival in the NBA playoffs, the Lakers are expected to be a dark horse in the West this season, provided they can beat the Grizzlies. While things won’t be easy, James’ consistency, longevity, and leadership skills make him a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs.