The Los Angeles Lakers obliterated the Memphis Grizzlies in an end-to-end domination as thorough as you’ll ever see in a closeout game, eventually winning Game 6 by a final score of 125-85 on Friday night.
In other words, they finally gave Dillon Brooks (a) 40 (point loss), which brings us to the first of our three takeaways from a truly enjoyable blowout...
Dillon Brooks is a clown
Brooks, who went into the series hoping to face the Lakers and LeBron James because it would “test us good” to “knock him out in the first round,” found out the hard way that the first part of that was true: Playing against LeBron did indeed test Brooks and his front-running friends, an exam they failed miserably over six games, but none in a more spectacular fireball of ineptitude than Dillon the Villain.
Brooks finished the playoffs with a PER of 1.7, the worst of any player in the entire 2022-23 postseason other than Jaylen Nowell of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Grizzlies were outscored by 11.4 points per 100 possessions with Brooks on the floor, and were never better — only losing by 0.4 points per 100 possessions — than they were when he sat, per NBA.com. Brooks made just 24 of the 77 shots the Lakers practically begged him to take by defending him like he was in health and safety protocols, good for a postseason career-low 31.2% from the field in the series.
Brooks, a restricted free agent who one can’t imagine Memphis is going to bend over backwards to keep, would have cost himself a ton of money if he had just played this horrifically. But when you add in the fact that his mouth kept writing checks that his much more talented teammates were left unable to cash as he was ejected for nut punches or benched for one-way shooting specialists, it is even harder to predict a big payday is coming.
Add in that he’s a frontrunning troll who has attempted to grift his way into basketball notoriety by talking a big game and then either ducking media obligations entirely and leaving his teammates to deal with the fallout from his latest humiliating failure, and who then blamed said media for making him a villain by... quoting him accurately? ... and it’s difficult to see teams lining up to pay a guy who appears both unaware of his station in the NBA and borderline unplayable in the playoffs.
Brooks capped off his 10-point explosion in Game 6 by once again ducking any questions that won’t come after a win...
Dillon Brooks exited the locker room before the media was allowed to enter postgame.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 29, 2023
...mercifully concluding his Cancun-bound clownery for the postseason, and leaving us plenty of room to talk about actually skilled basketball players.
Anthony Davis is the best defensive player on earth
In the pile opposite of Brooks, filed under “guys who lived up to their defensive reputation and then some,” was Anthony Davis, who was so impactful on the defensive end in Game 6 — and this series — that you’d be forgiven for demanding that Jaren Jackson Jr. go get his Defensive Player of the Year trophy from the locker room at halftime and present it to Davis at midcourt.
The Grizzlies shot just 30.2% from the field in Game 6 — per my friend Keith Parish of the Grits and Grinds podcast, that’s the seventh-worst percentage in the 2,327 games in Grizzlies franchise history — and Davis’ fingerprints were all over every errant shot, often literally (he finished with 5 blocks). According to the Lakers, his 24 blocks in the series were the most by any player in a six-game playoff span in almost a decade.
Davis was everywhere defensively in Game 6 especially, leaving the painted area portion of the Grizzlies' shot chart looking like a blood-soaked Quentin Tarantino set rather than any real hope of effective offense:
The Grizzlies are going to see Davis’ face leering down at them and his muscle-bound inflatable tube man arms blotting out the gym lights in their nightmares:
"Mr. Davis says not in my house." pic.twitter.com/bDyp8VJSaI— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 29, 2023
Davis was a defensive game-changer all year for the Lakers, but he has ramped it up a level even by his own incredible standards this postseason. Over the six games of the first round, the Lakers gave up a defensive rating of 100.4 while Davis was on the court, compared to 106.3 when he sat, per NBA.com. Both rates are better than the league-leading Cavaliers in the regular season — thanks again for shooting, Dillon Brooks! — but the former is almost a full 10 points better, basically the difference between the Cavs’ No. 1 ranked defense and the 30th-ranked Spurs.
In Game 6, the Grizzlies managed an offensive rating of 82.5 with Davis on the court, nearly a full 30 points worse than the offensive rating of the league-last Hornets, for context.
Again, all this is small sample-size theater, but hopefully in concert with each other these numbers illustrate just how unbelievable Davis has been. It is unlikely the Lakers will see another offense worse than the Grizzlies’ plan of just throwing themselves at the rim as hard as possible like orcs firing corpses out of a catapult, but if Davis is at this level, it’s going to be awfully hard for teams to score nonetheless.
That is a scary enough proposition for whoever the Lakers face next, but it is even more so if Davis is getting as much offensive help as he did in Game 6.
D’Angelo Russell showed us what the good version of #PlayoffDLo looks like
Over two different postseasons and with two different teams coming into these playoffs, D’Angelo Russell had never shot above 44.4% from the field in a playoff game. He broke that threshold in Game 4, when he made 7 of his 15 shots to help Los Angeles take a 3-1 lead, but for the first time in his entire playoff career, he shot above 50% in Game 6, making 12 of his 17 shots (70.5%) to score 31 points and lead the Lakers in scoring as they capped off the first round.
Russell had previously shot 50% from three twice — both times against these same Grizzlies with the Timberwolves last year — but in Game 6 he shattered that previous best too, making five of his nine triples. His highlights were scorching, canning breezy practice shots in the flow of the offense or off second chances while left open because of the attention being paid to his teammates:
ICE IN HIS VEINS— NBA (@NBA) April 29, 2023
D’Angelo Russell comes up huge to lead the Lakers to Round 2!
31 PTS | 5-9 3PM pic.twitter.com/fEuOxjjKaN
As I discussed in Friday night’s Lakers Lounge with my buddy Anthony Irwin, Russell, to me, is somewhere between an 82-game player and a 16-game player. He’s not a total regular season merchant, but he’s also probably not going to be reliable in all 16 wins of a hoped-for title run, either (look no further than Game 3, when he shot 5-14 in a win, or Game 2, when he got lit up by Tyus Jones while going just 2-11 from the field).
But Russell doesn’t have to lead this team to a title. He’s not the No. 2 overall pick they drafted to be a franchise savior anymore; he’s an overqualified third-or-fourth option who can take some playmaking burden off LeBron, AD and Austin Reaves, space the floor, and make this team look hilariously dominant when he’s hitting shots.
And when he’s on, Russell looks as smooth and effortless as ever, and it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that his scoring explosions often seem to lead to extended garbage time like Friday night’s. Good playoff games from Russell are a luxury for this team, but one they’re lucky to have, and if he can manage production closer to this than his no-shows more often than not in this playoff run, the Lakers could be really, really dangerous.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.