Dillon Brooks will talk trash to just about anyone, and if you needed proof of that, he made it clear at the end of the regular season that to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the postseason. Well, he got his wish, and for a while, it looked like he would regret it. The Lakers took Game 1 of the series on Sunday, and before Game 2 tipped on Wednesday, star point guard Ja Morant was ruled out with a hand injury.
But Brooks and the remaining Grizzlies stayed strong. They controlled Game 2 from the start, and by the third quarter, they had built a lead that got as high as 20 points. James and the Lakers fought to trim that lead, and once it got down to 14, James and Brooks were caught on camera having a somewhat heated exchange. The Grizzlies went on to win the game, 103-93, and when asked how he'd respond to those saying he shouldn't talk trash to someone as accomplished as James, he cut off the question quickly.
"I don't care, he's old," Brooks said. "I was waiting for that, I was expecting him to do that Game 4, Game 5, he wanted to say something when I got my fourth foul. He shouldn't have said that earlier on. I poke bears. I don't respect anyone until they come and give me 40."
If anything, Brooks feels that players get too caught up in the accomplishments of their peers when they're trying to beat them.
"Obviously, I have some respect," Brooks said. "He's a legend. He's LeBron James. But when I'm on that floor, you're just another player to me. I don't care who you are. You're just 6-8, 270 pounds, and you're a basketball player. And that's where guys, they don't see that part of that game, where like, oh, I had those moments, year one, year two, where it's like, 'Oh, he's glowing; he's shining.' But now I'm creating a name for myself."
The series is tied 1-1, and whether or not Brooks has succeeded in his individual matchup with James is debatable. James has shot 12-of-19 from the field with Brooks as his primary defender in the series, according to NBA.com tracking data. That obviously doesn't look great for Brooks. However, James is attempting only four free throws per game, and while he's averaging 24.5 points per game in the series as a whole, that's down from a career postseason average of 28.7. Brooks is making James work for his points. There's no truly stopping a player of LeBron's caliber, but Brooks has successfully tired him out, at the very least. James has scored only 11 fourth-quarter points in the series despite both games being relatively close.
As Draymond Green has learned, Brooks is never going to quiet down. James is experienced enough to know not to let Brooks get into his head. The best way to shut him up will be beating him, and his next chance to do so comes on Saturday when the Lakers host Game 3 in Los Angeles.