NBA Playoff Dispatches: Vintage LeBron Fuels Lakers; Clutch Butler sinks Bucks


FOX Sports writers provide game insights throughout the NBA Playoffs. Here are her thoughts from Monday.

Lakers 117, Grizzlies 111 (OT): Biggest difference between these two teams? maturity.


When is LeBron James sane, a four-time NBA champion who has attended 10 Finals?


When Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks have serious accountability issues?

The odds makers got this series terribly wrong.

Game 4 between the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers and the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies was perhaps the ultimate example of the distinct maturity gap between the two teams, with the Lakers going 3-1 after a 117-111 overtime win took the lead.

As James and Anthony Davis struggled to get things going on Monday, they showed their skills and overcame their soporific beginnings by transforming into Swiss army knives.

When Morant and Brooks lost, they showed their cowardice when both left the arena without speaking to reporters. For Brooks, it was his second straight game in which he dodged the media following a loss.

That’s what separates these two teams.

James struggled with his shot early on, but instead of sulking, he decided to do anything and everything to push his team to victory. He grabbed 20 rebounds for the first time in his 20-year career, covered the attacks and made crucial buckets to finish with 22 points and just one turnover.

When Davis scored 0:5 at halftime, he didn’t let his head down. Instead, he made some of the game’s biggest plays on the track.

James and Davis shone when the pressure was greatest, showing their Championship DNA.

In the final second of the rulebook, with the Lakers trailing 104-102, James made a driving layup to level the score. Then Davis blocked Morant’s attempt to win a game when the buzzer sounded.

The lasting picture of the night came a few minutes later when James drove onto Brooks and made a game-winning layup on which he was fouled to put the Lakers 113-108 by 29.4 seconds in overtime.

James clenched his fists. He faced the crowd and yelled. He hit his chest. He nudged Davis in the chest.

James was tired. But on a night when he struggled early, he had one of the most impressive performances of his career, becoming the oldest player to have a 20-20 game, surpassing the record set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1973 at the age of 36 .

“You just dig deep and understand that eventually you can sleep,” James said. “Just not now. This is not the time to rest or forget an assignment.”

And Davis, who is his own worst critic, didn’t come off when he couldn’t take a shot to save his life like he might have a few years ago. Instead, he dug deep and finished with 12 points (five in overtime), 11 rebounds and four blocks, attacking and patrolling the rim on either end of the court when it mattered most.

“Even though I wasn’t recording, I still wanted to make my mark and do the little things, the intangible things that don’t really show up on the stat sheet,” Davis said. “I just keep fighting. I keep playing no matter what. All I know is that you can always take a shot. You can always make a play that changes the course of the game and helps the team win.”

That’s called maturity.

Meanwhile, Morant and Brooks showed they are too young, too inexperienced and too childish to go far in the postseason.

This is from Morant, the same guy who, when asked if there were any teams the Grizzlies should be worried about in the Western Conference, told ESPN, “No, I’m fine in the west.”

This from Brooks, the same guy who recently told reporters that he wouldn’t mind facing James in the first round, you know, “knocking him out right away” – and then called him “old.”

The Lakers refused to engage in the trash talk in this series. They focused on basketball. The Grizzlies were focused on the Lakers. That showed on the pitch.

When things finally didn’t go the way the Grizzlies wanted, the team’s loudest apparitions tucked their tails between their legs and hid. How is that supposed to inspire their teammates’ confidence in Game 5?

Her silence was deafeningly loud. Their conversation was empty. Your trust was conditional.

It was an embarrassing look for the Grizzlies.

Now on the brink of elimination, it’s likely that both Morant and Brooks regret their earlier words.

The only thing that would make things better? If they had the courage to admit it.

— Melissa Rohlin

Heat 119, dollars 114: Jimmy Butler brings Bucks to the abyss

Where do you even start? How do you capture correctly The performance in words?

We could say the numbers, and I guess that’s a good start. So: 56 points(!), shared for the fourth-highest singles total in playoff history, including 22 in the fourth quarter, and he shot 19 of 28 from the field, and he hit 15 of his 18 free spins. throws.

Oh, and Jimmy Butler did a lot of that work when he faced off against Jrue Holiday, arguably the best full-back in the game. And Butler also spent a lot of time guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo, not exactly an easy task. And somehow Butler managed to do all that and play 41 minutes, and now the Heat have a 3-1 lead over the top seeded Bucks after a stunning 119-114 win in Miami. And just for context, here’s how 3-1 teams have fared throughout NBA history:

But do you know what was most impressive about Butler’s performance on Monday night? That such outbursts are no longer surprising, that one is no longer shocked when he emerges from behind the 3-point line and buries a go-ahead jumper in crunch time.

There was Butler’s performance of 35 points and 11 assists to open the series. And remember last year’s conference finals against the Boston Celtics when he had 41 points in Game 1, 47 points in Game 6 and 35 points in Game 7? And who can forget his ridiculous, meme-making run in 2020 during the finals in the bubble, when he set the Los Angeles Lakers on fire by amassing two triple-doubles, one with 40 points and one with 35.

But something about what he did against the Bucks on Monday night just felt different.

For one thing, the Bucks are an invited team; There’s a reason they made the playoffs as title favorites. Also, this heat roster just isn’t very good. It rolls out a starting lineup with Gabe Vincent, Max Struss and Kevin Love.

Butler has to do everything for the heat. So far on this series — and since arriving in Miami four years ago — he’s done just that. Butler has repeatedly carried the Heat farther than they deserved. More interesting, however, is the reputation he has earned for himself. Playoff Jimmy is a real thing. And it’s something basketball fans will be talking about for years to come.

— Yaron Weitzman

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She has previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He is the author of “Refueling to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Boldest Trial in Professional Sports History.”.” Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

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