Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers Make Statement With 111-101 Blowout Victory Over Grizzlies in Game 3, Lead Series 2-1

After the Grizzlies trash-talk following Game 2, the Lakers made a bold statement on the court in Game 3 with a 111-101 blowout victory over Memphis to take a 2-1 series lead.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James cradled the ball in his right hand, took one step to his left, and then flushed home a reverse windmill jam that sent the soldout crowd at Crypto.com Arena into a frenzy.

Two days after Grizzlies' guard Dillon Brooks called James "old" and said he didn't respect him, the four-time NBA Champion and all-time scoring king responded with a statement game for the ages.

Instead of getting sucked into a war of words, James did his talking on the court, scoring 25 points to lead the Lakers to a 111-101 victory over the Grizzlies in Game 3 on Sunday night, and more importantly, a 2-1 series lead for Los Angeles.

"He doesn't get caught up in the war of words. He just goes out and speaks with his actions. Speaks with his play," said Lakers' head coach Darvin Ham on LeBron. "His leadership with the group has not been like—he's not saying nothing to you guys and then talking to us like, he's just been focused throughout. And that's the way we need him to be. Again, it's not about the mano y mano match up within a team sport. You just gotta go out and make the right plays. Simple as that."

Prior to tipoff, James was more excited to play in front of a packed house at the arena formerly known as Staples Center, than he was about going toe-to-toe with Brooks. That's because it had been over 11 years, 3,646 days to be exact, since the Lakers last played a home playoff game in front of a full capacity crowd.

"It was amazing. You could tell they've been looking forward to this and we have as well," said James of the fans. "The energy they gave us we just tried to reciprocate that by playing the game at a high-level and get a win for them. We were able to do that for our home fans tonight."

The last time the Lakers took the court in front of a soldout crowd was on April 28, 2012, when Dwight Howard got ejected after getting swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

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The Lakers missed the playoffs the next six seasons, including in LeBron's inaugural year with the purple and gold. The Lakers won their 17th title with James winning Finals MVP in front of no fans inside the "bubble" at Walt Disney Wolrd during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The following season, the Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns in six games in the first round, but a limited capacity of just 8,500 fans were allowed in the building because of coronavirus restrictions. Last year, the Lakers didn't make the postseason at all.

So after 11 long years between appearances, the crowd's pent-up energy was evident from the opening tip, and it didn't take long for their taunts to be directed at their favorite target: Dillon Brooks.

Fans took turns booing and chanting profanities at Brooks for his words about LeBron following the Lakers 103-93 Game 2 Loss in Memphis. The crowd clearly got under Brooks' skin as he started the game 0-for-4 from the field and was eventually ejected for a low blow to James' groin early in the third quarter. It was the second time Brooks has been ejected in his playoff career, the only player in Grizzlies' history with multiple playoff ejections.

"He was getting booed all season. I don't think it bothered him at all," said Memphis teammate Ja Morant about the venom and vitriol of the crowd directed at Brooks. "He embraces that and loves that. It gives him fuel. It boosts him up and he goes out and plays hard. That's just Dillon. He's a big-time competitor."

[Lakers Lose Game 2 to Grizzlies Without Ja Morant 103-93, Series Tied at 1-1]

The Lakers and Grizzlies have spent much of the series trash-talking each other with bold statements both on the court and off of it.

In Game 1, it was Austin Reaves who exclaimed "I am HIM!" after a 23-point performance in the Lakers 128-112 victory that stole home-court from Memphis.

After the game, Desmond Bane, called out Rui Hachimura's 29-point, record-tying performance off the bench as "the game of his life," and doubted he would ever be able to replicate it.

Then it was Brooks after Game 2, poking the bear in LeBron by calling him "old" among other not so kind things. He even challenged James to score 40 points on him before he would ever respect him.

"I think that just puts a fire under all of us, especially him," said Ham about how LeBron and his team responded to Brooks' comments. "He's just going about his business like he's always done..and all of the other stuff—you know, those theatrics—that's for the fans. That's why they pay for their tickets and, you know, come out and cheer, boo, depending on the environment, whether you're home or away, which player it is. That's all fan based. It's great. It makes the game intriguing and suspenseful."

The Lakers did their talking on the court. They quickly jumped out to a 26-point first quarter lead, tied for the largest lead after one quarter in NBA playoff history. More importantly, they held the Grizzlies to just 9 first quarter points.

The Lakers coasted into halftime with a 16-point lead, and were ahead of the Grizzlies by as many as 29 points in their wire-to-wire victory.

"We just came out and set the tone…We're not getting into the back back and forth. We let our game speak for ourselves," said Anthony Davis. "The trash talk is going to be there with the guys that they have, but it's playoff basketball we don't expect anything less from them. We try to not make sure we don't let that affect our play and we go out and do what we have to do between the lines. "

Morant, who returned to the starting lineup after missing Game 2 with a hand injury, tried to singlehandedly mount a Memphis comeback in the fourth quarter. Morant scored 24 points in the final frame, and cut the Lakers lead to single-digits at nine points for the first time since the opening minutes. Morant finished the game with 45 points in the loss.

"That firs quarter pretty much hurt us, and we can't let that happen," said Morant. "We have to play how we played those last three quarters. In that fourth quarter I was just trying to win the game. I got it going pretty good. I just couldn't get over the hump."

Morant's 24-points in the fourth quarter were the most in any quarter in Memphis postseason history.

Davis bounced back from a bad performance in Game 2, leading the Lakers with 31 points, 17 rebounds, and three blocks. Davis now has 15 blocks in the series so far.

Davis was the linebacker of the Lakers defense, as they held the Grizzlies to just 37 percent shooting, and forced them into 18 turnovers.

The Lakers have now won nine consecutive Game 3's when the series is tied 1-1. That's the most in NBA history.

When asked if he thought he had made a statement with the Game 3 victory and possibly earned Brooks' respect in the process, James once again took the high road.

"I didn't make a statement. I've been doing this for too long, I wasn't making no statements. We had an opportunity to come home and play well on our home court and we did that. I don't need to make statements," said James. "At the end of the day I think my resume and what I've done for this league speaks for itself. At the end of the day my focus is to my teammates and for us to figure out a way to beat the Memphis Grizzlies. Not how I can beat an individual on their team. If anyone who knows me, they know that's what I've always been about."

Game 4 of the best-of-seven series will be tip-off on Wednesday, April 24 at 7:00PM PST.

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