Grizzlies coach: ‘Really good chance’ Morant misses Game 4
Ja Morant is unlikely to play in Game 4 of the Warriors’ playoff series with the Grizzlies, Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said Sunday.
Morant suffered a knee injury in the Warriors’ Game 3 win Saturday night. He and Jenkins both highlighted a fourth-quarter play in which Golden State guard Jordan Poole grabbed Morant’s knee during a trap at half-court.
“From what I’ve been told there’s a really good chance he doesn’t play tomorrow,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins reiterated his postgame statement that he and the Grizzlies believe Warriors’ guard Jordan Poole caused Morant’s knee injury when he grabbed and “yanked” it.
“This injury is caused by that play,” Jenkins said on Sunday with his team now in a 2-1 hole in the series.
Jenkins said Memphis general manager Zach Kleiman has been in communication with the NBA league office about the play. But
the league will not suspend Poole for Game 4, which tips off at 7 p.m. Monday, or fine him for the incident, according to multiple reports.
Morant made his feelings about the play clear, tweeting a video of the play with the caption “broke the code,” a reference to Steve Kerr’s comments in response to Dillon Brooks’ hard foul on Gary Payton II that caused him to break his elbow in Game 2. Morant deleted the tweet shortly after posting it.
Jenkins couldn’t expand on the nature of Morant’s injury, other than it was a knee injury and that he is undergoing further evaluation on it.
Echoing Jaren Jackson Jr.’s response to Morant’s injury after the Warriors’ Game 3 win, Grizzlies’ Tyus Jones said the play was “interesting.”
“I don’t think Poole, or anybody in this series for that matter, is necessarily a dirty player,” Jones said. “It was an interesting play. That’s all I can really say on that. It was not a normal play that normally happens. But I don’t think
he was trying to injure him by any means.”
Though Kerr refrained from commenting on the matter, several Warriors players defended Poole. Klay Thompson said postgame on Saturday that there was no malicious intent and “We’re not out here trying to hurt people. Or club people in the back of the head on a fast break.”
Steph Curry equated it to “hot stove” contact and on Sunday, Otto Porter Jr. said the team isn’t even thinking about the play anymore.
“Nah, we ain’t thought about it at all,” he said.
“We’re just trying to focus on Game 4. I don’t think there’s anything to talk about... What Jordan Poole did, he was just going for the ball, it is what it is.”
Morant’s teammates said his spirits were “high” but Jenkins said the star guard wasn’t able to participate in any basketball activities on Sunday.
Morant worked his way back from a knee injury to play for Memphis in the first round against the Timberwolves. He played in only two of the Grizzlies’ final 13 games of the regular season. The Grizzlies went 20-5 in games without Morant this year.
“When he was on the court, you saw how much we relied on him,” Grizzlies center Xavier Tillman said. “When he’s not on the court, it’s like, we got you.”
But the Grizzlies’ success without Morant in the regular season happened with sharpshooter Desmond Bane playing at full strength. The guard has been dealing with a back injury for the semifinal series, and it’s clearly holding him back. He shot 2-for-8 in the first two games, but looked a little more healthy in Game 3, shooting 4-for-5 from 3-point range. Bane said after Saturday’s game that he was feeling better, but not 100 percent.
The Grizzlies also got center Steven Adams back from health and safety protocols, and Adams could challenge the Warriors’ domination on the glass thus far. The Warriors have averaged a playoff-leading 120 points per game in these playoffs — bumped by a 142-point game on Saturday — with quick transition offense off defensive rebounds.
Though the Grizzlies have had success without Morant, their star has been their best player this series, averaging 38 points per game.