Morant out with bone bruise, why were Grizzlies so eager to blame Poole?
Plus: a look at adjustments for the closeout game
After game three, Memphis Grizzlies coach, Taylor Jenkins started off his postgame press availability by saying that “the league should look at that play.” The play in question, unfortunately (for them) was an innocuous grab. A momentary slip of the hand while going for a loose ball. That the Grizzlies ever tried to frame the injury to Morant’s leg as relevant to that play would have been laughable if this all wasn’t so serious.
Ever since Dillon Brooks clubbed Gary Payton in the back of the head, the Grizzlies have been angling to call the proverbial cops on Jordan Poole. Even after game four, Jenkins was openly asking for intervention, knowing that Poole was exonerated.
Don’t expect that to change, even though the MRI results on Ja Morant’s knee revealed that the damage is incompatible with the Poole play. What is real is that Morant injured his knee (probably on this play) and is sadly done for the series.
What’s even more galling, is the CP3-level of dirty/gamesmanship that unfolded ahead of game four. Morant limping into the arena, limping out to shootaround — where he dribbled a ball for a few minutes in slippers. All while the team had the MRI results in hand and knew Morant wasn’t playing. While Jenkins sat up in front of reporters and doubled down on their laughable smear campaign. There’s being tight lipped about injuries to gain an edge, but then there’s this approach… besmudging Poole has left a sour taste for many.
I’m not the type to call the NBA cops over a deception like this, but let’s all be honest and call it what it was: a sneaky attempt to get the league to intervene because the Memphis Grizzlies don’t see a way past this Golden State team without a little extra-curricular boost. And maybe an attempt to defend a reputation that was developing after Payton’s injury.
I don’t know if Taylor will issue an apology or not, but I’m pretty sure that I will not be alone in not accepting it, should one be issued.
With a 3-1 lead as the series swings back to Memphis, it’s time for the Warriors to put this young Grizzlies team to bed. It’s not their time yet. Steph Curry warned them. Here he is in his postgame availability after this same Memphis team knocked the Thompson-less Warriors out last year:
WHO: Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies
WHEN: Wednesday May 10, 20222 // 6:30pm(ish) PDT
Warriors lead series 3-1
Injury update: status quo on all injuries. No Morant, No Iguodala or Payton. And coach Steve Kerr remains unavailable after coming down the Coronavirus.
What will the Grizzlies do differently, and do the Warriors adjust anything?
“This isn’t the Minnesota Timberwolves. You’re no longer playing that team; this is championship level basketball.”
That was Draymond Green, talking about the ongoing awakening in Memphis. After being able to put an end to the Warriors’ short-handed chase at the end of last season, and get past a surprisingly tough Minnesota Timberwolves team, you could tell that the Grizzlies (and their fans were already self-crowning themselves as the next big rising squad.
And then they met the Warriors. Old, undersized, no “true” center other than Kevon Looney… and tough as nails. The Warriors have absolutely flipped the script on the Grizzlies. And it’s not some sort of Happy Gilmore crazy trick shot to win these games, just good, hard-nosed basketball.
This is what makes dynasties possible, a core of extremely solid players that all mesh well together and buy into the game plan. And it’s an all around effort. Jordan Poole’s addition is getting a lot of attention, but this team would not be in the position they are if it wasn’t for Andrew Wiggins post-season rebounding explosion and steady scoring; or Otto Porter’s astute contributions all over the place — notably, Porter’s shooting from deep (4 of 6) was an outlier on a night where the team couldn’t hit the ocean if they threw a ball off Klay Thompson’s boat.
And of course, the defense of Draymond Green has been phenomenal yet again. This guy always seems to get better in the playoffs.
Stephen Curry leads all playoff scorers per 36 minutes, and even while going through a bit of a shooting slump from deep, is cooking defenses with his astonishing brand of hyper efficient basketball prowess.
So, now that it’s clear that Morant isn’t coming back, can Memphis dig deep and find the backbone required to stand toe-to-toe with this Warriors team? They certainly don’t lack in toughness on the court. Aside from the one little 30-point blowout, the Grizzlies have been hanging tight with Golden State down to the wire in each of these games. As Eric Apricot pointed out yesterday in his E1P, the Grizzlies team without Morant is an extremely tough defensive unit.
But hanging tight isn’t enough to get it done. Maybe against the Timberwolves, but not against this hardened Warriors group. It’s been a weird series though; one game after setting a new franchise record for points scored, the Warriors couldn’t hit a shot in game four. 40% from the field, 9 of 37 from deep (24.3%)… so how exactly did the Warriors win that one?
Some stout defense and timely shots in the clutch were at the epicenter, but for my money, I think it’s the Warriors’ ability to outrebound the Grizzlies, and win the battle for points in the paint is what’s swinging this series.
One of the adjustments for Memphis might be to play Steven Adams more. I’m not sure if he can sustain more than the 27 minutes he played in game four, but he grabbed 20% of available offensive rebounds, and 28% of defensive rebounds while he was on the court, according to Synergy.
Memphis hasn’t really had any answers for the Warriors’ defense, and without Morant’s offense, they’ll need to do everything possible to hang with a Golden State team that is proving to be both tough, and talented.
I think I’m revising my prediction down one game: Dubs in five. This team is in tatters.
[Author’s note: for those looking for a recap of my first game ever at Chase, I’ll have it later. The preview ran long and we will hopefully have some off days to fill soon.]