The moments strung together, the Lakers suddenly looking like the basketball team they threatened to be when their names were written on paper this offseason.
LeBron James bounded agelessly to the basket. Anthony Davis swatted away shot after shot. D’Angelo Russell skipped and Austin Reaves cooked, the Lakers playing their best basketball of the season.
It helped, of course, that the ball decided it would finally start going into the basket Tuesday night.
For all the thought that goes into constructing an NBA team and the time devoted to scouting an opponent’s strengths and weakness, shooting is the biggest equalizer, the fuel that can take the .500 Lakers and make them look like one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
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The Lakers, who had made more than a dozen three-pointers only once this season, canned 22 Tuesday in their second in-season tournament game, blowing out the short-handed Grizzlies 134-107 at Crypto.com Arena.
But the other things — the defense, the rebounding, the passing, the energy and the effort — are the sustainable things the Lakers did well that can carry over.
The 22 makes from deep ties a franchise record and the Lakers have now won three straight.
Memphis, playing without suspended Ja Morant, lost guard Marcus Smart to an ankle injury early, but the Lakers never showed any signs of mercy.
Seven players scored in double figures, seven Lakers hit threes and the Lakers grabbed their first blowout of the season, making 58% from the field and 62.9% from three.
No team in NBA history had ever made 22 or more threes at such a high percentage until the Lakers did Tuesday. Before the game, they were the 29th-ranked three-point shooting team in the NBA.
The stakes were higher Tuesday as part of the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament, the Lakers playing on a gold-and-purple court. And the intensity was obvious from the start.
Early in the first quarter, Davis and Memphis reserve Santi Aldama were tangled up after a made basket, with Davis shoving Aldama to the ground. Davis, Aldama, Russell, Desmond Bane and Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins all ended up with technical fouls in the fallout.
And while the Lakers’ shooting started hot and stayed that way, seeing the ball go in seemed to caffeinate their defense, the team playing with the kind of energy and intensity they’ve struggled to find regularly early in the season.
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“Just the energy,” Darvin Ham said when asked about the game.
Davis was again dominant against Jaren Jackson Jr., scoring 19 points to go with 11 rebounds, five assists and six blocked shots. Russell scored 24 and Rui Hachimura had 23 on just 10 field goal attempts. James had 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists and Reaves had 16, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
No Laker played 30 minutes.
Sunday against Portland, the Lakers made only 21.1% from three — their ninth game this season where the team finished worse than 35% from distance.
The looks, though, the team maintained, were pristine, a sign that the process was pure even if the shooting wasn’t.
“I feel like they’ve all been good looks,” Hachimura said. “Just got to make it.”
Tuesday, it all came together.
Taurean Prince, a 37% career three-point shooter, had been mired in a brutal slump, making just 2-of-15 since Oct. 30. When he swished his first three early Tuesday, he looked the to sky and blew a kiss — his celebration. It was the first time he’d made a three at a home game all year.
Later in the second half, as he stood near midcourt after a Lakers turnover, Prince shot the ball from deep.
And even though it didn’t count, it swished.
The extreme swings in shooting mean little in the big picture. Tuesday could end up being just one of those nights. The other stuff, which has been trending positively in the Lakers’ last three wins, will carry the Lakers on plenty of nights.
Tuesday, with the rims wide open, it didn’t have to.
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.