Dennis Schroder snuck in from behind, slapped the ball loose and got the steal — maybe the biggest stop of the Lakers’ season.
The layup and the following free throw — those were maybe even bigger.
Short-handed and, well, just short against the towering Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers absorbed every push from one of the best teams in the West.
But they never buckled. And as a possible game-tying free-throw from Brandon Clarke bounced off the rim, the Lakers did the improbable.
Somehow, on a night when LeBron James struggled and the Grizzlies seemingly grabbed every possible rebound, the Lakers left the floor as winners, beating Memphis 122-121.
“A hell of a game,” Darvin Ham said.
When will LeBron James become NBA’s all-time leading scorer?
A look at LeBron James’ pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring record.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar points: 38,387
LeBron James points: 38,127
Points from record: 261 points
Projected games until record: 10
Projected record date: Feb. 9 vs. Bucks
The win caps an eventful home stretch where the Lakers lost tight games to Dallas, Philadelphia and Sacramento while they played without Anthony Davis, Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves.
The only other win came against Houston.
But Friday’s game encapsulated so much of the Ham’s message during the past eight days — keep working, keep fighting and a breakthrough will come.
Russell Westbrook scored 29, LeBron James fought to get 23 and Schroder finished with 19, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Memphis got 22 points from Ja Morant but he needed 29 shot attempts.
The win comes as more good news could be on the way.
The Lakers can pretend and stay coy, trying to remove some of the pressure of a timeline and limit the possibility of disappointment should there be a setback.
But as of Friday, when the Lakers hosted Memphis, all signs continued to point to an eventual Davis return next week — a crucial step for the organization as it tries to sort out its future.
According to people with knowledge of the plan but unauthorized to speak publicly, should Davis remain pain free in his rehab from a trio of foot ailments, the plan is for him to return to the court next week in Los Angeles before the Lakers leave on a five-game road trip against the Celtics, Nets, Knicks, Pacers and Pelicans.
The Lakers have not publicly set a timetable for Davis’ return.
When he returns, the Lakers will have critical ground to make up, with good teams coming onto the Lakers’ home court and leaving with tight wins. But Friday’s win over the Grizzlies showed the Lakers could get over the hump against top competition.