As the playoff series between the Lakers and Grizzlies intensifies, so does the one-on-one battle between LeBron James and Dillon Brooks.
If you keep track at home, it only took two games for things to get crisp between the two wings in this series.
During the third quarter of Memphis’ Game 2 win over LA, the two exchanged words after back-to-back buckets from James. Brooks then glared at James after making a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that extended the lead back to double digits.
As if that wasn’t enough, Brooks didn’t hold back when asked about her post-game back-and-forth.
“I don’t care. He’s old,” Brooks said. “You know what I mean? I’ve been waiting for this. I expected him to do Game 4, Game 5. He wanted to say something when I got my fourth foul. He should have said that earlier. But I poke bears. I don’t respect anyone until they come and give me 40.”
Oh, and there’s more.
“He’s not at the same level as when he won championships in Cleveland, Miami,” Brooks continued. “I wish I could see that. It would have been a more difficult task, but I’m playing with what I have.”
We looked at the on-court history between James and Brooks leading up to the series. Was Brooks as effective as he sounds?
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LeBron James vs Dillon Brooks stats
Here’s how James averages in two games of the first-round series against the Grizzlies:
- 36.5 minutes per game
- 24.5 points per game
- 11.5 rebounds per game
- 4.0 assists per game
- 2.0 blocks per game
- 1.5 steals per game
- 3.0 turnover per game
- 51.3 percent field goal shooting
- 25.0 percent 3-point shooting
- 62.5 percent free throw shooting
James helped the Lakers win Game 1 with 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. He then finished the Game 2 loss with 28 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. He’s only 4-for-16 from 3-point range in the series, but he’s still shooting an efficient 51.3 percent from the field .
According to the matchup data, James did the most damage with Brooks as his main defender.
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Dillon Brooks says LeBron James can’t meet him in a tackle
There are a few more interesting things Brooks said about James after the game.
The first: “I just let him know you can’t take me one on one. you didn’t watch the movie Up until this moment he doesn’t really take me one on one. When he was substituted, he was tired. So I did my job.”
By my count, James has made nine baskets with Brooks as his main defender in two games, not 11.
Here is each of those buckets:
Brooks isn’t wrong that James hasn’t scored much against him in one-on-one situations.
James hasn’t scored as many points this season as he has in years past, but he’s improved from averaging 4.0 isolation possessions per game in the regular season to 1.5 in the playoffs. He’s also recorded slightly less possession, going from 2.6 possessions per game in the regular season to 2.0 in the playoffs.
While James gets fewer isolation and post-up opportunities, his spot-up and transition possessions are so high in the series. He’s always been a one-man wrecking crew in the open field, but the Grizzlies will probably live with him tracking more if it means he doesn’t go downhill.
Of course, the diagram could look very different at the end of the series. James has a history of scouting games early in a series, and the Lakers didn’t need a particularly big night from him to steal Game 1. Also, James was more aggressive attacking Brooks in Game 2 than he was in Game 1 which could well be a prequel for the rest of the series.
Which brings us to the second interesting thing Brooks said after Game 2: “Just put it on during a seven-game streak and tear it down and see if it lasts — see if it takes that.” wants to play a one-on-one fight, or if he wants to be out on the sidelines.”
Brooks plays the long game, thinking he can wear James down over the course of a seven-game streak. It’s a smart strategy as James is in his 20th season and not far from suffering a foot injury that will sideline him for a month. Of course, if he challenges James and plays mind games, it could backfire, but if anything, it’s a reminder of how much the Lakers need Anthony Davis to push through to win this series.