It’s said that sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you – ironically, the Memphis Grizzlies can now all too familiarly relate.
Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and center Anthony Davis had strong performances to help lead LA to a big 111-101 win over the Grizzlies in front of a sold-out crowd at Staples Center on Saturday to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven first round NBA Playoff series.
Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks provided a lot of social media fodder after Memphis’ Game 2 win by calling James “old” and saying, “I poke bears,” referring to trash talking one of the game’s all-time greatest players. Following Game 3, Brooks perhaps learned his lesson, declining an ESPN interview and adding, “I ain’t talking.”
James – who finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists – helped lead the Lakers to an incredible 26-point lead at the end of the first quarter, matching the largest lead after one quarter in NBA Playoffs history, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Memphis fought back in the second quarter to close the gap to 16 at halftime, but the night then went from bad to worse for Brooks. Not even a minute into the second half, the forward was issued a flagrant 2 foul for hitting James in the groin area and kicked out of the game.
Adding insult to injury, a resolute Lakers team pushed the lead back up to 21 by the end of the third quarter, with James tallying 17 points, seven rebounds and two assists halfway through the quarter.
Despite the return of Grizzlies star Ja Morant and his standout fourth – the guard scored 22 straight points, the most in any quarter in franchise playoff history, according to ESPN Stats and Info – Memphis couldn’t complete the massive comeback, and behind strong performances by Davis, who tallied 31 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks and two steals on the night, and the Lakers’ role players, LA kept home court advantage in the series.
After the game, James said that the game wasn’t about making a “statement” to Brooks and the rest of the Grizzlies.
“I didn’t make a statement. I’ve been doing this too long,” James said, per Yahoo Sport. “We had the opportunity to come home and play well on our home floor, and we did that.
“We just wanted to play well, and we got a win. I don’t need to make statements.”
Morant, meanwhile, chose to look on the positive side of things, pointing to Memphis’ better play after a lackluster opening.
“I think we won by double digits in the last three quarters, so obviously that first quarter pretty much hurt us,” Morant – who finished with 45 points, nine rebounds and 13 assists – said, per Yahoo. “Obviously, some stuff you’ve just got to play through and tolerate.
“In that fourth quarter, I was just trying to win the game. Got it going pretty good, making shots, and just couldn’t get it over that hump.”
Game 4 between the teams is on Monday in Los Angeles.
Across the NBA
Elsewhere in the playoffs, the Phoenix Suns took a 3-1 lead over the Los Angeles Clippers, winning 112-100, behind Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, who combined for 61 points between the two of them, to put the Lakers’ crosstown rivals on the brink of elimination.
Over in the East, the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers completed their sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, 96-88, at the Barclays Center. Sixers forward Tobias Harris led the way for Philly with 25 points and 12 rebounds in what is Brooklyn’s second straight first-round sweep.
In the other Eastern Conference match-up of the night, Jimmy Butler’s 30 points helped fire the Miami Heat to a 121-99 victory and a 2-1 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks, who were still missing two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Khris Middleton led the way for the Bucks with 23 points, five rebounds and six assists, but it wasn’t enough against a surprisingly balanced Heat attack, which had six players in double figures.