2022 Playoffs: West Semifinal | Grizzlies (2) vs. Warriors (3)

5 takeaways from Warriors' Game 3 rout of the Grizzlies in Western Conference semifinals

Morant injury intrigue, Klay being Klay, Kuminga's 1st start and more to know as the Warriors take a 2-1 series lead by blowing out the Grizzlies.

Klay Thompson scored 21 points in Game 3, while Ja Morant racked up 34 points and 7 assists before exiting with an injury.

Grizzlies vs. Warriors: Complete series coverage

SAN FRANCISCO — Another player was injured. Another player fielded questions about his intent. Another player was ejected.

Sound familiar? It should. The Warriors cemented a 142-112 win over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 3 of their conference semifinal series in much different fashion than their nail-biting Game 1 win and their frustrating Game 2 loss. But the two teams continued their chippiness on the court and accusations over each other’s intentions.

Grizzlies guard Ja Morant sat for the final 6:19 after injuring his right knee on a play that Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins took issue with.

“He was going after a dribble, and Jordan Poole actually grabbed his knee and yanked it,” Jenkins said. “That kind of triggered whatever happened. So I’m actually going to be very curious to see what happens after that.”

Ja Morant responds via Twitter to the play after suffering a leg injury during Game 3.

What happened after that? Morant tweeted the play in question and captioned it with “broke the code.” That marked a not-so-subtle jab at Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who accused Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks of making a “dirty” play while committing a Flagrant 2 foul on Gary Payton II in Game 2, resulting in a fractured left elbow that will sideline Payton for at least the next two weeks and likely beyond.

Morant did not talk to reporters after limping out of the arena hallway, then deleted the tweet. But the Warriors certainly caught wind of it. Poole declined to address Morant’s tweet other than saying “we’ve got another game on Monday” (10 ET, TNT). But after a reporter handed Poole his phone to watch the replay, Poole defended himself with as much passion as his play.

“It was a basketball play when 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. So I mean, obviously hopefully we get better. Hopefully he gets better, and you know, we can see him out there next game. I don’t even play like that for real. That’s not my type game.”

Here are 5 takeaways from the rugged Game 3:

1. The Warriors get defensive about Morant’s injury

Jordan Poole: ‘I made a basketball play’

Jenkins stressed uncertainty about Poole’s intentions. But the Warriors viewed the Grizzlies’ motives through a skeptical lens. So much that Warriors guard Klay Thompson dismissed the comments as “playoff talk.”

“I don’t think there’s any malicious intent from Jordan,” Thompson said. “I don’t even think he’s strong enough to affect somebody’s knee. But we’re not out there trying to hurt people or trying to club people in the back of the head on a fast break. We play the game the right way.”

Golden State was unhappy that Draymond Green was ejected in Game 1 for collecting a Flagrant 2 foul after grabbing Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke by the jersey during a drive to the basket. Green maintained he held on to the jersey to minimize the impact of Clarke’s fall.

The Warriors then became irritated with Brooks’ foul on Payton II in Game 2. Brooks struck Payton on his shoulder and neck area on a fast break. He received an immediate ejection as well since he also collected a Flagrant 2.

“It’s unfortunate that that’s a conversation right now because obviously nobody wants to see anybody get hurt,” said Warriors guard Stephen Curry. “But there’s nothing malicious about what Jordan did. There’s no comparison to what Dylan 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.”

The replays clearly showed that Poole grabbed Morant’s knee. But it appeared more believable to hear Poole’s intentions because he was trying to steal the ball away from Morant. The replays also showed Poole and Morant accidentally bumping into each other beforehand.

“It looked to me like they bumped knees before he even reached,” Green said. “That’s kind of what I thought I saw. But no, not going to sit here and go tit-for-tat. We’ve got a basketball game to try to win Monday.”

2. The Grizzlies didn’t have much help for Morant on offense or defense

For now, the images of Morant limping around the arena did not concern Memphis.

“We’ve seen Ja, he’s like a Wolverine out there,” said Grizzlies guard De’Anthony Melton. “He could be limping one day, the next day be fine. He’s a warrior. He’s a competitor. He’s just a hooper.”

The Grizzlies don’t seem to have any other option. Morant appeared unstoppable as he scored 34 points amid multiple drives to the basket and a few from deep (4-for-7). But outside of Morant, the Grizzlies shot a collective 27-for-71 from the field (38%).

“We did a pretty good job of stopping other guys,” Green said. “You have to stop the guys that you can stop because it’s very hard to stop Ja.”

Ja Morant racks up a highlight-heavy 34 points prior to his injury exit.

It didn’t seem difficult at all. The Grizzlies found no suitable replacements for Brooks, who was serving a one-game suspension. Though Bane had 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting, he looked sluggish, still bothered by a lower back injury. And Jenkins observed that the Warriors’ zone defense left his team disorganized.

Grizzlies center Steven Adams cleared the NBA’s Health & Safety protocols, which had kept him sidelined for Games 1 and 2, but he didn’t play until the 5:37 mark of the fourth quarter.

Perhaps Adams could have helped slow the Warriors, who scored 62 points in the paint. But Jenkins, likely concerned about the Warriors’ outside scoring punch, kept with Xavier Tillman. Understandable. Curry (30 points), Poole (27) and Thompson (21) shot a combined 9-for-19 from deep even with with the more versatile Tillman on the floor.

As for Morant? The Warriors couldn’t stop him, but they didn’t allow him to dominate the game.

“They were throwing a lot of different bodies at him,” Jenkins said of Morant. “He’s got a lot on his shoulders right now, and I think he’s rising to the occasion. He’s playing brilliant basketball right now. It’s taking a lot of effort out of all of us, but I think he’s playing great.”

3. Klay looked like Klay again

The shot dropped into the basket after Thompson threw up a layup while falling down to the floor. The shot also dropped after Thompson heaved a running jumper from the top of the key.

Safe to say that Thompson’s brief shooting slump is over. He finished with 21 points while shooting 8-for-13 from the field and 4-for-6 from 3-point range after shooting poorly in both Game 1 (6-19 FGs) and Game 2 (5-19 FGs).

“Klay has been in a little bit of a rush,” Kerr said. “I think he’s trying too hard to get himself going and he just needs to be a little more patient.”

Mission accomplished. While Thompson improved his poor shooting marks, the Warriors also had Curry (30), Poole (27), Jonathan Kuminga (18), Andrew Wiggins (17) and Otto Porter Jr (13) crack double figures while collectively dishing out 34 assists.

Have the Warriors turned a corner in this series?

Thompson’s first six shot attempts came from the post. He developed a rhythm after listening to Kerr’s advice about leaning on his pump fake.

“Sometimes I forget how hard guys fly at me,” Thompson said. “That easy pump-fake, side-dribble or pump-fake reset is a great shot for me.”

That rhythm then helped him shoot 3-for-4 from deep in the third quarter. That included Thompson’s one-legged runner at the top of the key.

“As long as my shoulders are squared up to the rim, I can take a 1-footer, a 2-footer,” Thompson said. “I think it’s a good look and I’ve done it before. That was just in the flow of things and I’m happy it went in.”

4. Jonathan Kuminga gets his 1st postseason start

The Warriors would prefer to lean on Payton II’s athleticism. Or Andre Iguodala’s steady leadership. But with both players sidelined with injuries, Kerr granted 19-year-old rookie Jonathan Kuminga his first start.

Kuminga posted a playoff-career high 18 points in 18 minutes on 8-for-10 shooting.


5. Putting the Warriors’ offensive dominance in context

The 142 points were the second-most points in a playoff game in Warriors franchise history, trailing only the 143 points they scored against the St. Louis Hawks on April 1, 1967.  More recently, the Warriors’ playoff high was 134 in a Game 2 win over San Antonio in the 2017 Western Conference Finals.

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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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