In a series with spiking bouts of controversy, now Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies are calling out the Golden State Warriors for causing an unnecessary injury.
The point guard re-injured his troublesome right knee late in the game when Jordan Poole grabbed it as they fought for a loose ball late in the Warriors’ 142-112 victory that embarrassed the Grizzlies on Saturday night and gave Golden State a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Morant left Chase Center without speaking to reporters but posted and later deleted a video of the play on his Twitter feed with the words “broke the code,” a reference Warriors coach Steve Kerr had used four days earlier when Dillon Brooks’ hard foul in Game 2 sidelined Gary Payton II.
Poole and Andrew Wiggins swarmed Morant as he dribbled at the top of the 3-point arc when Morant struggled to keep possession – and Poole called it a basketball play with him going for the ball.
“Obviously, you don’t want to see anybody get hurt, I’m not even that type of player,” Poole said. “I respect everybody.”
Brooks was suspended for his Flagrant 2 foul in the first quarter Tuesday night when he pounded the head of a driving Payton, who landed awkwardly and fractured his left elbow. He will be sidelined indefinitely, also with ligament and muscle damage.
Kerr said the play was “dirty” and broke an NBA “code” injuring someone and threatening his career, while Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins and his Grizzlies players defended their hard-nosed style as not dirty at all.
Draymond Green and Golden State kept cool from the opening tip – methodically running away with it. Instead, Memphis forward Kyle Anderson got ejected with 6:19 left for arguing an offensive foul.
On Saturday night, Stephen Curry scored 30 points, Klay Thompson had 21 and nine rebounds and the Golden State Warriors shut down Morant’s supporting cast.
Morant’s stunning halfcourt three just before the halftime buzzer got the Grizzlies to 64-57 at the break and gave him 17 of his 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 tender right knee and limping off with 6:19 to play before heading to the locker room.
“He’s getting evaluated now. Nothing further. We just watched the replay,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “He was going after a dribble and Jordan Poole actually grabbed his knee and yanked it, which kind of triggered whatever happened, so I’m actually going to be very curious to see what happens after that.”
Kerr said he “didn’t even notice the play.”
Brooks will be back for Game 4 on Monday night at Chase Center, where the raucous sellout crowd included two women holding signs of Payton’s face insisting the Warriors “Win it for Gary.”
Golden State did so with a balanced attack and energy on both ends after Green called for the offense to do more to better the defense. He dished out eight assists, five points and five rebounds.
“The shot selection was much improved,” Kerr said.
Poole scored 27 points off the bench and Andrew Wiggins added 17 points for Golden State, which used a 10-0 run out of halftime to take command for good.
“We’ve got another game on Monday,” Poole said when asked what he expects next given the latest back-and-forth between the rivals.