Momentum appeared to be on the Los Angeles Lakers' side in their first-round matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies. After a resounding Game 1 win, the Lakers entered the following contest facing a team without its biggest star in Ja Morant, who was out with a hand injury. Morant joined Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke on the injured list, and it definitely seemed like the Lakers could run away with the series with LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the way.
To prevent that, the Grizzlies' role players needed to step up in a big way. And step up, indeed, this Grizzlies role player did. On Wednesday night, it was Xavier Tillman Sr.'s turn to show the Grizzlies' next man up mentality that has made them such a dangerous team.
In fact, Tillman, the third year center who began the year playing a 10 to 15-minute role off the bench, even outplayed Anthony Davis, the eight-time All-Star. The Grizzlies big man outscored and outrebounded the Lakers star, (22-13 on points, 13-8 on rebounds) as the Purple and Gold failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity to take a 2-0 series lead heading home.
As a result, fans on Twitter hyped up Xavier Tillman after such an important performance to keep the Grizzlies afloat. To put his performance in greater perspective, the Grizzlies center posted his career-high in points (and season-high in rebounds) in a game that should remind the world that the Lakers do not have a cakewalk ahead of them.
Xavier Tillman being the best player on the floor in a playoff game that featured LeBron James and Anthony Davis is a huge win for people who stare at the BPM leaderboard at sports-reference dot com every year
— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) April 20, 2023
Xavier Tillman becomes the youngest (only one under 25) second round pick to ever produce
while shooting 75% or better from field (min. 10 FGA)
in a single game in #NBAPlayoffs History.
— Shawn Coleman (@StatsSAC) April 20, 2023
In the end, the majority of fans on Twitter couldn't believe how Tillman — the Grizzlies' second-round pick in 2020 — outplayed Anthony Davis. Davis shot the ball horribly and failed to anchor the Lakers' interior to as well of a degree as he did back in Game 1, prompting some criticism from the ever-cacophonous Lakers fanbase.
Getting out scored, out rebounded, simply out played by Xavier Tillman in a playoff game sound crazy don’t it @AntDavis23 ??? 😂
— Ken Mike's son (@Shelb_Guwop) April 20, 2023
xavier tillman to AD tonight
— Elliot Thornton ☯ (@etfoshoo_) April 20, 2023
Then AD let a nobody named XAVIER TILLMAN get the best of him. JJJ had a feast too. AD just bbq chicken tonight.
— thad 8-5 #Lakeshow💜💛 (@tgpher) April 20, 2023
Grizzlies 3rd string center Xavier Tillman outplayed AD.
— John C. (@jcf_242) April 20, 2023
Nevertheless, with the series headed to Los Angeles, Anthony Davis will have plenty of opportunities to redeem himself. Davis, who put up a 4-14 shooting night, isn't likely to play that poorly again, unless he's playing hurt. His Game 2 performance is his second-worst shooting night of the season. In fact, out of 56 games, he only shot the ball worse than 50 percent for 13 of them.
Even then, tonight is Xavier Tillman's night, and the Grizzlies will need more performances like this from him especially if Ja Morant were to miss more time.