SAN FRANCISCO — — Now Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies are calling out the Golden State Warriors for causing unnecessary injury.
Morant re-injured his troublesome right knee late in the game when Jordan Poole caught him as they battled for a loose ball late in the Warriors’ 142-112 win that embarrassed the Grizzlies on Saturday night and gave Golden State a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Morant left the Chase Center without speaking to reporters, but posted and then deleted a video of the play on his Twitter feed with the words “broken the code”, a reference Warriors coach Steve Kerr had used five days earlier when Dillon Brooks’ hard foul in Game 2 ruled out Gary Payton II.
Poole and Andrew Wiggins swarmed Morant as he dribbled atop the 3-point arc when Morant struggled to hold possession – and Poole described it as ‘a game of basketball’.
“When we doubled him I kicked the ball, I was looking for the ball. Obviously you don’t want to see anyone get hurt, I’m not even that type of player.” Poole said. “I respect everyone. Obviously, I hope he gets better and we can see him in the next game.”
Brooks was suspended for his Flagrant 2 foul in the first quarter on Tuesday night when he headbutted a driving Payton, who landed awkwardly and fractured his left elbow. He will be out indefinitely, also with ligament and muscle damage.
Kerr said the game was ‘dirty’ and broke an NBA ‘code’ of hurting someone and threatening his career, while Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins and his Grizzlies players defended their uncompromising style as n not being dirty at all.
Draymond Green and Golden State stayed cool from the opening tip – methodically running away with it. Instead, Memphis forward Kyle Anderson was sent off with 6:19 to go for arguing an offensive foul.
Stephen Curry scored 30 points, Klay Thompson had 21 and nine rebounds, and Golden State shut down Morant’s supporting cast.
A 3 from Morant just before the halftime buzzer took the Grizzlies to 64-57 at the break and gave them 17 of their 34 points after a 47-point performance in Game 2. But Morant couldn’t. do it alone for Memphis, and he was done after rubbing his sore, limping right knee with 6:19 left before heading to the locker room.
“He is assessed now. Nothing else. We just watched the replay,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “He was looking for a dribble and Jordan Poole actually grabbed his knee and pulled him, which kind of triggered what happened. passed, so I’m going to be very curious to see what happens next.”
Kerr said he “didn’t even notice the coin”.
Brooks will return for Game 4 on Monday night at the Chase Center, where the sold-out crowd included two women holding signs of Payton’s face insisting that Warriors “Win for Gary.” It is not known if Morant will be able to play.
“I suffered a serious knee injury and I don’t think there was any malicious intent on Jordan’s part,” Thompson said. “I don’t even think it’s strong enough to affect someone’s knee. But we’re not trying to hurt people or try to bludgeon people in the back of the head on a fast break. We play the game the right way and I’m going to have his back.
Golden State dominated with a balanced offense and energy at both ends after Green called on the offense to do more to improve the defense. He gave away eight assists, five points and five rebounds.
“The shot selection has been much improved,” Kerr said.
Poole scored 27 points off the bench and Andrew Wiggins added 17 points for Golden State, who used a 10-0 halftime lead to take command for good.
“We have another game on Monday,” Poole said when asked what he expected next given the latest back and forth between the rivals.
Rookie Jonathan Kuminga provided a spark in place of Payton, while Ziare Williams was in place of Brooks.
Curry missed his first two shots then scored his first points of the game making a big 3 with 0.9 left in the first as the Warriors trailed 28-26.
Morant hit a 3-pointer from 31 feet midway through the first and Williams dived shortly after for a 21-8 lead and Memphis made 6 of 9 shots to start the game. But the Grizzlies went cold and made just 3 of the next 12 and watched as the Warriors closed the quarter with an 18-7 flurry.
“We were just too frantic to start the game,” Kerr said.
Curry’s splash brother, Thompson shot 8 for 13 with four 3-pointers on a solid shooting night.
He had been 11 of 38 from the floor, including 5 of 22 on 3-pointers, so far in the series before he found a better groove. Kerr thought it would happen soon enough.
“When we get good shots, the chances of Klay getting hot are much higher, and when he gets hot, our team takes on a different look,” Kerr said. “We just become a lot harder to keep.”
THE ABSENCE OF ADAMS
Grizzlies center Steven Adams was available to play this series for the first time after coming out of league health and safety protocols, but the big man didn’t play until the game spiraled out of control.
Grizzlies: G Desmond Bane’s troublesome back was sore in Game 2 but got better. “His back is progressing. I don’t think he’s at full strength like he was in the regular season, but he’s the ultimate competitor,” Jenkins said. Bane had 16 points in 29 minutes. … Memphis shot 6 of 11 from 3-pointers in the first quarter.
Warriors: The Warriors edged the Grizzlies 21-14 in the first half and 53-37 overall. … Golden State is 4-0 at home this postseason and 49-11 since the 2015 title run that ended with the franchise’s first championship in 40 years.