Six-time NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors annihilated the Memphis Grizzlies, 142 -112, in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals to lead the series 2 – 1, but the talking point appears to be on Ja Morant and the injury that forced him out of the game on Saturday.
Midway through the fourth quarter against the Warriors, Morant was injured on a play where his right knee was grabbed by Jordan Poole. He limped off the floor and did not return. Jenkins said Morant was being evaluated after the game.
Code Broken or Not?
The Grizzlies had plenty to say about the cause of the injury – specifically calling out Warriors guard Jordan Poole for grabbing Morant’s knee during a scramble for the ball with 6:55 left in the game. Poole and Andrew Wiggins had trapped Morant near half court. Poole poked the ball loose from behind, then reached again with his right hand, but caught Morant’s knee instead.
The sequence was not quite evident in real time, but the Grizzlies were clearly incensed after watching the slow-motion replays after the game.
“We just watched the replay,” 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 what happens after that.”
Morant later tweeted a replay of the injury and wrote, “broke the code,” which was a reference to Steve Kerr’s comments about Brooks’ foul in Game 2 that resulted in Gary Payton II’s fractured elbow, but quickly deleted the video.
Poole Denies Being Vicious
When asked, Poole said he did not remember the play in question but after watching video from a reporter’s phone, he shook his head and denied trying to injure the former Rookie of the Year.
“I was going for the ball. … I’m not even that type of player, I respect everybody. Hopefully he gets better, and we can see him out there next game.”— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 8, 2022
Jordan Poole on his incident with Ja Morant pic.twitter.com/9rbDxEbzag
“It was a basketball play. We doubled him and I hit the ball and I was going for the ball,” Poole said. “Obviously you don’t want to see anybody get hurt. I’m not even that type of player, I respect everybody. Obviously, hopefully he gets better (and) we can see him out there next game. I don’t even play like that, that’s not my type of game.”
Ja’s Potential Absence
It is not confirmed that the NBA’s Most Improved Player would be ruled out of the rest of the series, but that could potentially take away the spark from the Grizzlies’ quest for glory. They performed creditably when he was out during the regular season, going 20-5, but this is a little different, being in the throes of a playoff series against an opponent that feels like it’s getting stronger by the day.
That possibility triggered the fears, and Jenkins likely knows his personal future is tied to his connection with Morant. Morant’s style is recklessly exciting, effective and dangerous, for himself and his opponents.
He single-handedly kept the Grizzlies from being spanked by a larger margin, scoring a game high 34 points, with drives, dunks and hitting open threes at a clip hardly anyone could have expected coming into the series.
Ja Morant in the loss:— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 8, 2022
He’s hit 13 threes this series, after hitting only 4 in the First Round. pic.twitter.com/SivZGg4GVu
Observation and Note in Hindsight
It is not easy to determine intent, especially in slow motion where belief would have to be suspended in such a moment for Poole to intentionally grab at Morant’s knee while he and Andrew Wiggins were trapping him.
Poole’s arm did make contact with Morant’s knee as he was reaching for the ball, but how much torque and strength was in that contact is anybody’s guess, and a matter of interpretation.
Tacitly or not, the Grizzlies are making it known what they believe and want some attention brought to it. It is part of gamesmanship and the inertia of the playoffs.
It is probably as strong a call to action for the NBA to review the play as it can be for someone in Coach Jenkins’ situation — a rising gaffer but one yet to have a solid footprint in the league landscape to vociferously go after a franchise with championship equity.
I don’t see a significant injury here with Ja Morant but possible knee sprain (MCL)— Dr. Evan Jeffries, DPT (@GameInjuryDoc) May 8, 2022
—1st force comes from outside with Jordan Poole knee bump
—Then he grabs the knee from inside and pulls it outward