LOS ANGELES — LeBron James might have given Dillon Brooks an earful before the Lakers’ 111-101 Game 3 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, but come tipoff, it was business as usual — a team player executing a game plan to try to win a basketball game.
“I’ve been doing this too long. I’ve made enough statements,” James said when asked if he was trying to make a point with his play. “No. We had an opportunity to come home and play well on our home floor, and we did that. No statement was made. We just wanted to play well and got a win. And we want to try to do that in Game 4, as well.
“But I don’t need to make statements.”
The No. 7-seeded Lakers took a 2-1 lead on the second-seeded Grizzlies in the Western Conference first-round series.
James finished with 25 points on 10-for-20 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists and added a double-clutch reverse dunk on a breakaway in the second half — the type of play that’s argument enough against Brooks’ assertion that James looks “old,” without needing to say anything about it in a news conference.
During pregame warmups, James did confront Brooks on the court with fans in the stands and cameras rolling all around them. While the Lakers didn’t reveal what was said, James said he had no problem with everyone who witnessed it drawing their own conclusions.
“There was nothing private about it,” James said of the pregame exchange. “It was very, very public. I like it that way.”
What James, a 20-year veteran, said he doesn’t appreciate as much is the seemingly constant stream of agitators who have tried to rattle him — from DeShawn Stevenson to Joakim Noah, Lance Stephenson to Jason Terry, Paul Pierce to Draymond Green.
“This is not my first rodeo,” James said. “I’ve had this throughout my career with certain individuals. It’s easy. It’s literally easy if you want to …”
James stopped himself there and put the focus back on the win — and on Anthony Davis, seated to his right on the postgame dais, who had 31 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks.
“We won, you played a hell of a game, my boy,” James said to Davis. “Yes, you had a hell of a game. I’m not going to do this.”
He also wasn’t going to play judge and jury when it comes to Brooks’ status for Game 4. The Grizzlies forward struck James in the groin when James was crossing the ball behind his back 17 seconds into the third quarter. After an officials’ review, Brooks was assessed a flagrant foul 2 and ejected. He finished with seven points on 3-for-13 shooting in 19 minutes.
“I was just trying to get up, protect my crown jewels and move onto the next play,” James told Spectrum SportsNet’s Mike Trudell in an on-court interview after the game.
When asked if Brooks should be suspended on top of the ejection, James said, “I’m not a part of that committee. If he’s in the lineup, out of the lineup, we’ve got to prepare no matter what.”
Davis, who was limited to 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting in Game 2, ended up being the difference in Game 3, no matter how much James and Brooks might have been talked about leading up to it.
“Didn’t like my performance in Game 2,” Davis said afterward. “And I just had to be better overall. The aggressiveness picked up, wasn’t waiting for double-teams. I was just trying to go quick and make them adjust to me instead of adjusting to them. And just make the right reads out of it.”
And if James didn’t earn Brooks’ respect by scoring 40, as Memphis’ forward tried to bait him into, James seemingly couldn’t care less.
He earned the win.
“At the end of the day, I think my résumé and what I’ve done for this league speaks for itself,” James said. “I don’t really get caught up in any comments like that. Like I continue to say, at the end of the day, my focus is to my teammates and us trying to figure out a way how we can beat the Memphis Grizzles, not how I can try to beat an individual on their team.
“If anybody knows me, they should know that’s what I’ve always been about. That’s all that matters.”
LeBron James on Dillon Brooks