SAN FRANCISCO — Physical basketball plays are suddenly coming into question with emotions at an all-time high during these playoffs: So, what becomes too much on the big stage when stars hit the floor hard or get hurt?
Golden State guard Gary Payton II went down and is sidelined indefinitely with a broken left elbow after Dillon Brooks clobbered him over the head on a fast break layup attempt last week in Memphis.
Ja Morant injured his right knee again during the Grizzlies’ 142-112 Game Three loss on Saturday night that gave the Warriors a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals. Morant took to Twitter to express his disgust that Jordan Poole “broke the code” by grabbing his knee — then the Grizzlies guard promptly deleted his post. Poole said he was simply trying to get the ball.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr had said Brooks, suspended for Game Three for a Flagrant 2 foul on Payton, had broken an NBA code when he sent Payton to the ground, thus Morant’s use of the phrase.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said Sunday he doesn’t expect Morant to play Monday night in Game Four.
“As I said last night, just trying to be matter of fact here, and this is what Ja says, what our medical team has said after reviewing the play, Ja was playing great, feeling great all game and that the grab of the knee is what triggered the potential injury and why we took Ja out of the game. Nothing’s changed from there,” Jenkins said. “That’s the play that triggered this and he’s got further evaluation going on. ... There’s probably a really good chance he doesn’t play tomorrow.”
Morant, who limped off with 6:19 remaining in the game, was unable to do any basketball activity on Sunday, Jenkins said.
Kerr shrugged several times when asked about the play Sunday and said he saw no need to discuss the latest back-and-forth between the franchises.
“I don’t have a take. Nothing to comment on. I watched the tape,” Kerr said. “... No, I don’t take it personally. I watched the play, there’s nothing to comment on.”
Brooks will be back on Monday.
As the Bucks and Celtics also prepared to resume their series with Milwaukee home and up 2-1, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was asked about a “code” and he acknowledged he didn’t know what that meant while asking for more information — then was told of Morant’s injury.
“There’s a competitiveness and a physicality that’s respected, that’s expected, and then if it crosses the line I think that some of the language that league uses is good,” Budenholzer said. “If it’s excessive, if it’s dangerous, those are the types of things that are breaking the code. The players, these guys they’re trying to win. It’s competitive, the blood is boiling, but these guys all know this is a profession, this what they do for a living. Nobody wants to be on the other end of something that’s excessive and dangerous or crossing the code or cracking the code or whatever it is.”
There were several notable physical plays in the Bucks-Celtics series, too, such as Boston’s Robert Williams being elbowed in the face by Bobby Portis as both tangled under the basket while pursuing the ball. Williams went to the locker room but returned to the game.
In San Francisco, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson quickly came to Poole’s defense.
“It’s unfortunate that that’s a conversation right now because obviously nobody wants to see anybody get hurt,” Curry said. “But there’s nothing malicious about what Jordan did. There’s no comparison to what Dillon did or Draymond, like nothing in that vein. So it’s not a joking matter that Ja is hurt but all the rest it is total B.S. in terms of the conversation right now.”
GRIZZLIES at WARRIORS
Warriors lead series 2-1
NEED TO KNOW: Memphis has shined this season without Morant. The Grizzlies went 20-5 during the regular season when he also dealt with the recurring knee issue.
“Our team all season long has risen to the occasion when anybody’s been out,” Jenkins said. “Obviously Ja’s been out for a number of games and our guys stepped up beautifully.”
KEEP AN EYE ON: Brooks’ return to the floor following his one-game suspension and emotions running high in the sellout crowd given the latest with Morant and Memphis calling out Poole’s play.
INJURY WATCH: Grizzlies G Desmond Bane’s back continues to improve. He had 16 points playing 29 minutes in Game Three.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Grizzlies perimeter shooters struggled in Game 3, when Memphis shot 16 of 43 from 3-point range — Ziare Williams 1 of 5, De’Anthony Melton 1 for 8 and Tyus Jones and John Konchar each missing their two attempts.
CELTICS at BUCKS
Bucks lead series 2-1
NEED TO KNOW: The two teams have alternated wins so far, with the Celtics’ 109-86 Game 2 triumph sandwiched between two Bucks victories. Milwaukee squandered a 14-point lead Saturday but rallied in the final minute to win 103-101. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 42 points and made the go-ahead basket with 44.3 seconds left. Boston’s Al Horford had a potential tying tip-in just after the final buzzer.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Free-throw opportunities. The Celtics had 34 free-throw attempts and the Bucks just 17 in Game 3. Boston rallied down the stretch by driving to the basket and drawing fouls. In the fourth quarter, the Celtics were 8 of 11 from the line while the Bucks didn’t attempt a single free throw. “We’ve got to do a better job of keeping them off the free-throw line,” Budenholzer said afterward. “Giannis has got to continue to be in attack mode. Our team’s got to be in attack mode. We’ve got to flip the free-throw game. You’re fortunate to win a game when a team shoots twice as many free throws as you do.”
INJURY WATCH: Bucks F Khris Middleton remains unavailable and will miss a seventh straight playoff game with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Budenholzer hasn’t ruled out the possibility Middleton could return later this series.
PRESSURE IS ON: Celtics F Jayson Tatum. The three-time All-Star shot 4 of 19 overall, missed all six of his 3-point attempts and scored just 10 points in Game while being guarded primarily by Wesley Matthews and Jrue Holiday. Tatum said he’s been dealing with a wrist issue for the last two months but added that it didn’t affect his play. He was holding his left wrist after getting fouled by Antetokounmpo on a dunk that resulted in a three-point play.
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