LOS ANGELES – Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks “stabbed” LeBron James once too much.
Brooks was ejected from Game 3 against the Lakers after hitting James in the groin with 11:43 left in the third quarter, and Los Angeles went on to win comfortably, 111-101.
Ja Morant impressed in his right hand return with 45 points, 13 assists and a career high 22 points for the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter.
But this game has never been so close, and neither Brooks nor his teammates can back up his talk earlier in the week, and now the Lakers lead the best-of-seven series in the first round, 2-1. Game four 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 brushing it off by saying, “I kidding bears.”
James was strong in response — 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists — but he wasn’t completely in control. He didn’t need to be. The Lakers tied an NBA record for the largest end-of-the-first quarter advantage in playoff history when they led the Grizzlies 35-9.
Not wanting to become involved with questions about Brooks, James said, “I’ve been doing this for a very long time, not making any statements.” “We had the opportunity to go 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 trash talk earlier in the week, leaving the court embarrassed. He was ejected from the game after the umpires reviewed the play and rated 2 gross fouls – an automatic ejection.
Brooks appeared to deliberately punch James while he was dribbled down the court, though his teammates argued he was going to steal while LeBron was dribbled behind his back. James collapsed into court and remained frustrated for a few minutes.
“Screamer 1, OK, but get fired? I don’t agree with that at all,” Morant said.
The score was 54-40 at the time of the incident. Brooks, who declined an interview request from the athleteHe finished with 7 points on 3-of-13 shooting. He was sung to boo songs and “Brooks, you suck” chants by the Lakers followers.
The Grizzlies’ nine points were the lowest total in any quarter for any team this season. They shot 3 of 25. The closest Memphis came after the first minutes of the game was nine points, with 1:24 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, I mean, pretty bad,” said Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins. “We can’t get off the 26th. … Hopefully our guys learn from this. There are no excuses. When you come down here on the road … We know what we’ve been going for, we just have to play better.”
Morant was 13 of 26 from the field, 12 of 13 on the line, and missed a triple-double with one rebound. His right hand—which kept him out of Game 2—was covered in a bandage. He only dunked once, with both hands, but had no problem. His colleagues couldn’t say the same.
“I felt good,” Morant said. “In that fourth quarter, I was just trying to win the game. I got along really well, loved the shots, just pretty much couldn’t get over the hump.”
(Photo: Kirby Lee/USA Today)
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