LOS ANGELES — Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks has “stung” LeBron James one too many times.
Brooks was ejected from Game 3 against the Lakers after hitting James in the groin with 11:43 left in the third quarter, and LA went on to win comfortably, 111-101.
Ja Morant dazzled in his return with a bruised right hand for 45 points and 13 assists and scored 22 straight for the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter.
But that game was never close, neither Brooks nor his teammates could confirm his speech from earlier in the week, and now the Lakers lead this first-round, best-of-seven series, 2-1. Game 4 will take place in Los Angeles at 10 p.m. ET on Monday.
The enigmatic Brooks sparked controversy this week for calling James ‘old’, among other things, and ignoring him, saying ‘I push bears’.
James was solid in response — 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists — but not quite dominant. He didn’t need to be. The Lakers tied an NBA record for the most end-of-quarter advantage in playoff history when they led the Grizzlies 35-9.
“I’ve been doing this for too long, I’m not making any statements,” said James, who for the second day in a row didn’t want to indulge in any questions about Brooks. “We had the opportunity to come home and play well at home, and we did. No statement was made.
Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 31 points and 17 boards, and D’Angelo Russell contributed 17 points and seven assists.
Brooks did little to back up his trashy speech earlier in the week and walked out of court in embarrassment. He was ejected from the match after officials reviewed the play and assessed a flagrant foul 2 – which is an automatic ejection.
Brooks appeared to deliberately hit James as he dribbled the ball down the field, although teammates argued he was looking for a steal as LeBron dribbled behind his back. James collapsed on the ground and lay there for a few minutes.
“Flagrant 1, OK, but an ejection? I totally disagree with that,” Morant said.
The score was 54-40 at the time of the incident. Brooks, who declined an interview request from Athleticismfinished with seven points on 3-of-13 shooting. He was serenaded with boos and chants of “Brooks, you suck” from the Lakers faithful.
The Grizzlies’ nine points were the lowest all-quarter total for any team this season. They shot 3 of 25. Memphis’ closest after the game’s opening minutes was nine points, with 1:24 left in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, I mean, pretty bad,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We can’t go down 26. … Hopefully our guys learn from that. There are no excuses. When you come here on the road… we know what we’re walking into, we just have to play better.
Morant was 13 of 26 from the field, 12 of 13 at the line and missed a triple-double by just one rebound. His right hand – which kept him out of Game 2 – was bandaged. He only dived once, two-handed, but had no problems the rest. His teammates couldn’t say the same.
“I felt pretty good,” Morant said. “That fourth quarter, I was just trying to win the game. I did it well, I liked the shots, but I couldn’t get over the bump.
(Photo: Kirby Lee/USA Today)