NBA Playoffs: Dillon Brooks’ Trash Talk Backfires Vs. The Lakers, and now the Grizzlies, face a huge obstacle

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James points as Memphis Grizzlies' Dillon Brooks makes a save during the first half of Game 3 of their first-round NBA playoff series at Arena on April 22, 2023 in Los Angeles.  (Pasadena Star-News via Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – If poking living legends is going to be Dillon Brooks’ game plan, he’d be wise to hang around for the entire game instead of actually poking living legends.

The Arena crowd was on Brooks from the moment he stepped off the team bus, booing and chanting. He didn’t stick around during the Lakers’ 111-101 Game 3 win Saturday night, courtesy of an ejection in the first 15 seconds of the second half when he punched LeBron James in the groin.

He talked big leading up to Game 3, as is custom for this Grizzlies team. But they again failed to show up for a big game on the road, giving a hometown faithful that hasn’t seen a sellout playoff home game in a decade something to cheer about.

Brooks declined to comment in the hallway after the game, saying “I’m good” as he passed a handful of reporters, so he couldn’t defend his actions or his play. His teammates backed him up in the postgame, claiming that the hit was not intended but that he was going for a backcourt steal on James, who was upset.

But no one could tell why Brooks’ fist was clenched at that moment and why so much force was applied if he was reaching for a steal. It would be impossible for Ja Morant, Desmond Benn and Luke Kennard to get inside Brooks’ head in that moment, or try to predict how the league office would proceed.

“How they treat Dylan, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is [suspended]” Morant said. “I think he’s been out past ejections in previous games. If you watch the play, he’s reaching for the ball.

“Flagrant one? exactly But the ejection, I don’t agree with that at all. It’s out of my hands. I hope we have that for Game 4. … My pops always told me, ‘There’s no friend within those four lines.’ He doesn’t lack that confidence and people see it. Everywhere we go it is vilified. It is not so [lack of] Respect for anyone.”

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James points as Memphis Grizzlies' Dillon Brooks makes a save during the first half of Game 3 of their first-round NBA playoff series at Arena on April 22, 2023 in Los Angeles.  (Pasadena Star-News via Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James points as he defends Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of their first round NBA playoff series at Arena on April 22, 2023 in Los Angeles. (Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Golden State’s Draymond Green was suspended, of course, for his stomp on Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis, the league’s decision taking into account Green’s past transgressions.

Philadelphia’s James Harden was ejected but not suspended for a similar hit on Brooklyn’s Royce O’Neal in Game 3 of the 76ers-Nets series — which ended in a sweep Saturday.

If grizzlies are not careful, they will soon go fishing. Brooks’ shot, intentional or not, gave the Grizzlies the only boost in an environment that needed it in abundance, along with composure and maturity.

By calling out James, Brooks put a target on the team’s collective back. They should be prepared for an all-out, emotional blitz from the Lakers, who are bent on seizing the moment.

James almost waded into the waters of firing back at Brooks in the postgame, but cut himself short, only hinting at the numerous vocal detractors who have stood up to him over the years with disdain or nonsense.

One doesn’t have to think hard to recall Green, a rival turned teammate, over Lance Stephenson, DeShaun Stevenson, Jason Terry or James. Not everyone who squealed suffered the same fate, but James usually got his pound of flesh.

Add Brooks to the list.

Not only were the Grizzlies not ready to play, they were not ready for Anthony Davis. Davis won’t repeat his subpar Game 2 performance and the Lakers follow his lead in that department.

More and more, he’s becoming the player that demands his talents, and if the West is truly open, Davis will have to do more heavy lifting to save James’ energy, especially for late-game control.

Davis finished with 31 points, 17 rebounds and 3 blocks, but it certainly felt like he had more of an impact, especially after the Grizzlies’ big men fueled their Game 2 win in Memphis.

They immediately jumped on the Grizzlies, taking a 26-point lead and stifling a team that barks like big dogs but turns into cuddly house cats when someone responds in kind.

It wasn’t just that the Grizzlies were inept offensively — those things happen in playoff settings, random games where nobody can hit anything happen more often than it seems — but they looked shaky, like that moment. was too big for them.

As such they were not the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. They scored 9 points, shot 3 of 25 in the first quarter with six turnovers, watching the Lakers draw a thirsty crowd, rarely looking back.

“A lot of guys struggled tonight,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Our offense significantly impacted our defensive ability, but the way our guys battled in quarters two, three and four showed great resilience. We have to learn to get better from these adversities and get the best of us.”

Jenkins is technically correct. Both he and Morant pointed out that they were outscored after seeing the Lakers build such a large advantage over the last three quarters, but the tone was set in the opening minutes.

Morton was questionable for the game with a right hand injury suffered in 1 game and missed 2 games. He finished with a flurry to make the final score closer than the game, scoring 22 straight in the fourth and finishing. With 45 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds.

Brooks was busy in the crowd, Jaren Jackson Jr. had his hands full with Davis, and Ben didn’t get going after halftime.

“The first game at home, they’ll come out with a little bit of momentum and energy,” Bane said. “I’ve been struggling with fouls all series, taking myself off the floor and out of my rhythm. When you’re not making shots and you’re turning the ball over and they’re getting transition opportunities, you know that’s where they thrive.”

So it was Morant and Morant alone, and even James praised him in the postgame, saying how Morant opened up his game by hitting 3s and making him hard to stop.

In the context of talking about Morant, James also quietly mentioned his playoff exploits, like scoring 29 of 30 points in the Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit nearly 16 years ago.

“In that fourth quarter, I was trying to win the game,” Morant said. “I just kept it up, made the shot. But I couldn’t get us over the hump.

Now, they face a huge hump from both the inside and a Lakers team that suddenly smells blood.

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