MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Here are five observations from the Warriors‘ 106-101 Game 2 road loss to the grizzlies on Tuesday night, which knotted the best-of-seven series at 1-1 as it shifts to San Francisco.
Dillon Brooks fouls Gary Payton II
This series was altered three minutes into Game 2. Gary Payton II rose for a transition layup and Dillon Brooks, from behind, whacked him across the head, sending Payton sprawling to the floor at an awkward angle. The fall fractured Payton’s left elbow. An MRI on Wednesday will determine the extent, but this is obviously a significant injury at the wrong time.
The Warriors were angry about the foul in the moment and carried that fury into their postgame comments. Brooks was ejected. Kerr yelled “get the fuck out of here” down to the Memphis bench after Brooks was tossed. Steph Curry called it “out of line.” Draymond Green labeled it a “bullshit” foul.
“The line is pretty clear,” Kerr said. “You don’t hit a guy when he’s in midair, club him and break his elbow. That’s where the line is.”
Here is the foul.
Memphis’ Dillon Brooks gets tossed for this foul on Golden State’s Gary Payton II.
Two games, two ejections between the Warriors and Grizzlies.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) May 4, 2022
Here is Kerr’s full postgame soundbite on the Brooks foul. He said of Payton: “This is a guy who’s been toiling the last six years trying to make it in this league. He finally found a home, playing his butt off this year in the playoffs. This should be the time of his life and guy comes in and whacks him across the head in midair. I have broken the code. Dillon Brooks broke the code. That’s how I see it.”
Steve Kerr: “Dillon Brooks broke the code.”
Here is Kerr’s full soundbite on the foul that injured Gary Payton II pic.twitter.com/QALedINMYo
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 4, 2022
The aftermath of the foul could affect both teams. The Warriors believe Brooks should be suspended. If searching for precedent, the most similar NBA foul this season was Grayson Allen‘s undercutting of Alex Caruso, which caused a hard fall that fractured Caruso’s wrist. Allen was suspended for one game. That’s the most likely result. The league is expected to make a decision in the coming days. Game 3 is Saturday.
But Payton is the longer and more consequential loss. Brooks was brutal in Game 1, and Zaire Williamshis replacement, made a bunch of key shots in the second half of the Game 2 win.
Meanwhile, Payton had entered the starting lineup in this series because he was clearly the Warriors’ best option for guarding Ja Morant. Without Payton, Morant barbecued the Warriors’ remaining perimeter defenders for 47 points.
2. The inability to guard Morant without Payton
The Warriors continued to back off Morant on the perimeter and bait him into all the 3s he wanted. He took 12 of them. He’s now fired up 23 in two games, far and away the most he’s ever attempted in a two-game stretch.
Morant made five of those 12 3s in Game 2. That won’t be enough to spook the Warriors into running him off the line, but it’s a healthy enough number to make them pay for daring him into it. When it matters, though, he’s still trying to get to the rim and, now that Payton isn’t out there to determine him, the Warriors don’t have anybody who can remain in front.
It’s clear that the Grizzlies’ preferred matchup on Morant is jordan poole when he’s out there. With under two minutes left, they dialed up a high screen to get Andrew Wiggins off Morant and Poole onto him, knowing the Warriors would switch. Morant then roasted Poole for this go-ahead floater.
Morant did go directly at Wiggins on one crucial fourth-quarter possession. Wiggins forced Morant into the toughest shot he made in crunch time, an 11-foot leaner that the Warriors are comfortable seeing him attempt. Without Payton, they’ll likely start Wiggins on him in the coming days.
But the Grizzlies will just try to screen Wiggins off Morant and attack Poole or Klay Thompson, slowed laterally after his two leg injuries. Morant scored 18 of his 47 points in the final 6:11. Here were two more of those game-deciding buckets. In the first clip, he’s picking on Thompson on a switch, steaming right past him and scoring over Draymond Green’s contest.
In the second, the Grizzlies again drag Poole into some screen action, and Poole and Wiggins botch the coverage, giving Morant a lane to the rim.
When asked about possible answers to the Morant problem without Payton, Kerr actually brought up Andrew Iguodala. He said they’re hopeful Iguodala comes through the next few days well and is cleared for Saturday. That would give the Warriors an extra body and one of the smartest defenders in the world.
But Iguodala can’t move like he once did and certainly can’t stick laterally with Morant the way Payton can. Payton is more equipped than just about anybody in the league to stay in front of Morant. Without him, the Warriors’ brain trust will need to spend the next few days devising a more complex plan for Morant, which could include some selective doubles (especially late in games) and maybe even a stretch of Green as his primary defender. They’ve used Green on point guards in the past.
3.Stat of the night
The Warriors shot 18.4 percent from 3 in Game 2. They went 7-of-38 total. They hadn’t shot worse than 35.3 percent in their six previous playoff games and shot a worse percentage in the regular season only once — a 5-of-28 night against the Mavericks when they scored only 82 points.
Even all the makes weren’t pretty. Steph Curry banked in a 3 from straightaway in the fourth quarter. Curry went 3 of 11 from 3, Thompson went 2 of 12, and Poole went 1 of 6.
4. Klay’s shot selection
Kerr was critical of the Warriors’ shot selection, saying they rushed up jumpers at the first sign of daylight instead of remaining patient and searching out better looks. It was a team-wide issue, but Thompson was clearly the biggest culprit.
“It wasn’t great,” Kerr said when asked about Thompson’s shot selection. “Our shot selection in general was poor. We’ll look at the tape. Guys will have the day off tomorrow. We’ll come in the next day and watch tape and there will be a lot to look at. Sometimes in the playoffs you get over-anxious, overly aggressive because you’re trying so hard.”
Thompson was efficient in the Denver series, scoring 22.6 points per game on 50.6 percent overall shooting and 45.8 percent from 3. He almost exclusively took catch-and-shoot 3s or quick, attacking catch-and-go 2s, limiting his dribbling or contested chucking.
But it’s been the opposite in the two Memphis games. Thompson has been pounding the dribble more than usual, searching to find his own shot and missing more often than not. He went 5-of-19 in Game 2 and is now 11-of-38 in the series.
There was a particularly bad Thompson stretch during a Memphis run in the third quarter. On one possession, he went one-on-four in transition and shot a fadeaway 14-foot leaner from the baseline with 19 seconds still on the shot clock and no offensive rebounder in the vicinity.
The next time down, as the Grizzlies stretched the lead to seven, he took almost the exact same shot from the exact same location with 11 seconds still on the shot clock and again no offensive rebounders in position. These are the type of looks that will be highlighted during Thursday’s film session in San Francisco.
5.Soundbite of the night
Green was elbowed in the eye by Xavier Tillmann in the first quarter. It caused a cut that needed stitches. As Green was walking off the floor to the locker room, he flipped off the crowd, which was booing him.
Draymond Green on his double bird to the crowd: “You’re gonna boo someone who got elbowed and has blood running down (his) face, you should get flipped off. I’ll take the fine.” pic.twitter.com/a86Fg4j1V6
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 4, 2022
Green returned in the second quarter. His right eye was swollen. I have finished with four turnovers and five fouls. It was not his best game of him. But he grabbed 10 rebounds, had seven assists and baited Jaren Jackson Jr. into his sixth foul.
(Photo of the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant passing between