Nothing about last season’s matchup between LeBron James and Dillon Brooks should indicate any sort of rivalry was formed. LeBron and the Lakers had their way with Brooks and the Grizzlies on the court, bouncing Memphis in the first round.
The way it played out only made Brooks look worse. He was woeful, never stopped talking, got ejected from a game and, eventually, watched the Lakers dance their way to a 40-point win in the closeout game.
But none of that logic has stopped Brooks. In the first meeting between the two in Houston, Brooks and the Rockets got the better against an undermanned and undersized Lakers team.
The Rockets saw a much different version of LeBron and the Lakers on Sunday, though, as evidenced by them coming away with their fifth win in six games.
Early on, a much more energetic LeBron was apparent, including quite the reaction to smoking a layup for an and-one opportunity in the first half.
LeBron James after missing the layup pic.twitter.com/NVrwRSPZz3— Ahn Fire Digital (@AhnFireDigital) November 20, 2023
That miss was the exception on the night as LeBron finished the game shooting 14-19 from the field for 37 points. And he wasn’t quiet about his scoring, either.
The matchup with Brooks was what really seemed to add some extra juice to LeBron on the night. As always, Brooks tried to get under LeBron’s skin. He succeeded in one degree on Sunday as LeBron was called for a rare technical for a little shove on Brooks after a play.
LeBron earlier gets T'd up for shoving Dillion Brooks— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) November 20, 2023
This is Bron's 1st technical foul of the season and only his 7th since joining the Lakers. pic.twitter.com/AnJooBNhIq
But, again, that was the exception as LeBron toyed with Brooks all night long. He even busted out a “too small” gesture, something that he’s not prone to do.
LeBron was fiery all night long and Brooks had basically no answer for him other than to foul him.
Brooks with a hard foul on LeBron pic.twitter.com/NguJFT1weX— Lakers All Day Everyday (@LADEig) November 20, 2023
With the game on the line, the Lakers targeted Brooks on LeBron. Shockingly, it worked!
Really smart from the Lakers here. They knew Dillon Brooks would be on LeBron and knew he couldn't hang with him in the post. So they put LeBron on the block, spread the floor out so the Rockets can't help and LeBron just bullies him. pic.twitter.com/JAD0EXT5iI— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) November 20, 2023
After the game, Rui Hachimura delivered the quote of the night when asked about the “rivalry” between Brooks and LeBron.
“I don’t know what’s the beef between those two guys,” Rui said. “I know they’ve been doing it for a while now, especially last year in the playoffs. They have things going on. For LeBron, it’s nothing. It’s actually good for him. He needs that motivation. It brings him more into the game.
“As you guys seen, whatever (Brooks) is doing, it doesn’t do anything to (LeBron). He scores more, he gets rebounds more and we’re winning. Dillon Brooks, he just wants to be part of his legacy.”
For once, I guess Brooks was successful. He’ll be remembered in the same vein as Ruben Patterson was as the “Kobe stopper.”
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.