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Now Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies call the Golden State Warriors for having caused unnecessary damage.
Morant injured his troublesome right knee again late in the match when Jordan Poole grabbed it as they battled for a loose ball late in the Warriors’ 142-112 victory that bothered the Grizzlies Saturday night and gave Golden State a 2-1 lead in the semifinals of the Western Conference.
Morant left the Chase Center without speaking to reporters, but later posted and deleted a video of the game on his Twitter feed with the words “broke the code,” a reference Warriors coach Steve Kerr had spent five days earlier when Dillon Brooks’ hard foul in Game 2 put Gary Payton II on the sidelines.
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Poole and Andrew Wiggins swarmed Morant as he dribbled to the top of the 3-point arc as Morant struggled to retain possession of the ball – and Poole described it as “a basketball game”.
“When we doubled him, I hit the ball, I went for the ball. Obviously, you do not want to see anyone get hurt, I’m not even that type of player.” They got it. “I respect everyone. Hopefully he gets better, of course, and we can see him out there next game.”
Brooks was suspended for his Flagrant 2 foul in the first quarter Tuesday night when he banged the head of a running Payton who landed awkwardly and broke his left elbow. He is put on the sidelines indefinitely, also with ligaments and muscle injuries.
Kerr said the play was “dirty” and broke an NBA code that hurt someone and threatened his career, while Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins and his Grizzlies players defended their tough style as not dirty at all.
Draymond Green and Golden State stayed cool from the opening tip – methodically ran away with it. Instead, Memphis striker Kyle Anderson was thrown out with 6:19 left to argue for an offensive error.
Stephen Curry scored 30 points, Klay Thompson had 21 and nine rebounds, and Golden State closed out Morant’s supporting cast.
A 3 by Morant just before the break made the Grizzlies 64-57 at the break, giving him 17 of his 34 points after a 47-point performance in Game 2. But Morant could not do it alone for Memphis, and he was done after having rubbed his sore right knee and limped off with 6:19 to play before going to the locker room.
“He’s being evaluated now. Nothing further. We just saw the replay,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “He went after a dribble and Jordan Poole actually grabbed his knee and jerked it, which in a way triggered what happened, so I’ll actually be very curious to see what happens after that.”
Kerr said he “did not even notice the play.”
Brooks will be back for Game 4 Monday night at the Chase Center, where the breathtaking sold-out crowd included two women with signs on Payton’s face and insisted that Warriors “Win it for Gary.” It is unclear whether Morant will be okay to play.
“I’ve been through a tough knee injury and I do not think there’s any malicious intent from Jordan,” Thompson said. “I do not even think he is strong enough to affect anyone’s knees. But we are not out there trying to hurt people or try to hit people in the back of the head on a quick break. We play the game the right way and I want his back.”
Golden State dominated with a balanced attack and energy at both ends, after Green urged the attack to do more to improve the defense. He handed out eight assists, five points and five rebounds.
“The stroke selection was much improved,” Kerr said.
Poole scored 27 points from the bench and Andrew Wiggins added 17 points to Golden State, who used a 10-0 end to the break to take command forever.
“We have another match on Monday,” Poole said when asked what he expects next time, given the recent back and forth between rivals.
Rookie Jonathan Kuminga gave a spark that started in Payton’s place while Ziare Williams was inside for Brooks.
Curry missed his first two shots and then scored his first points of the match by making a big 3 with 0.9 left in the first as the Warriors were trailing 28-26.
Morant hit a 31-foot 3-pointer midway through the first, and Williams thumped shortly after for a 21-8 lead, and Memphis made 6 out of 9 shots to start the game. But the Grizzlies got cold and made only 3 of the next 12 and saw the Warriors close the quarter with an 18-7 burst.
“We were just too hectic to start the fight,” Kerr said.
Curry’s Splash Brother, Thompson shot 8 for 13 with four 3-pointers in a solid shooting night.
He had been 11 for 38 from the floor, including 5 of 22 on 3-pointers, so far in the series before finding a better groove. Kerr figured it would happen soon enough.
“When we get good shots, the chances of Klay getting hot are much greater, and when he gets hot, our team looks different,” Kerr said. “We’re just getting a lot harder to guard.”
Grizzlies center Steven Adams was available to play for the first time in this series after coming off the league’s health and safety records, but the big man did not play until the game was out of hand.
Grizzlies: G Desmond Bane’s troublesome back was sore during Game 2, but has gotten better. “His back is evolving. I don’t think he’s at full strength like he was in the regular season, but he’s the ultimate competitor,” Jenkins said. Lane had 16 points in 29 minutes. … Memphis shot 6 of 11 from 3-point range in the opening quarter.
Warriors: The Warriors outscored the Grizzlies 21-14 in the first half and 53-37 overall. … Golden State plays 4-0 at home during this post-season and 49-11 dates to the 2015 title that ended with the franchise’s first championship in 40 years.