What if the best version of the Los Angeles Lakers isn't good enough?

For most of the season, the Lakers have had excuses. Injuries, LeBron James' inconsistent availability and dubious lineup constructions featuring two big men all gave L.A. cover for an uneven start. Sort those issues out—especially the lineup stuff—and the Lakers would be fine. Or so the thinking went.

After Thursday's 108-95 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, it might be time to acknowledge that these Lakers, regardless of how they're configured and deployed, just don't have what it takes to reach the championship level they're straining to grasp.

The Lakers started Anthony Davis and LeBron James at the 5 and 4, respectively, trotting out the frontcourt look everyone's been clamoring for. That combo helped produce Tuesday's 117-102 win over the Boston Celtics, which some viewed as a potential turning point in Los Angeles' season.

It looked more like a dead end against Memphis, which was on the second night of a back-to-back set, playing without Ja Morant or Dillon Brooks.

The Grizzlies, who started twin towers Jaren Jackson Jr. and Steven Adams up front, made a gaudy 14 of their 17 shots at the rim and dominated the offensive glass. Adams' eighth offensive board led directly to Desmond Bane's game-sealing triple.

Going small creates disadvantages exactly like the ones that hurt the Lakers against Memphis. Rebounding and defending the rim are just more difficult when you lack size. Deficiencies in those areas are expected costs. But the most troubling aspect of L.A.'s loss, which dropped it to 13-13 on the season, was that it got none of the benefits of small-ball.

The Grizzlies turned the Lakers over 22 times on the night, matching a team record for steals in a quarter and racking up a whopping 27 points off those giveaways.