MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks was ejected less than three minutes into Tuesday night’s 106-101 win over the Golden State Warriors for a flagrant foul 2 that left Gary Payton II with a broken elbow, marking the second straight game in this second-round series that a starter was ejected for a flagrant 2.
Brooks was chasing down Payton from behind on a fastbreak layup when he hit the Warriors guard in the head in the air with 9:08 left in the first quarter. Payton went down hard and remained down for several minutes. After officials reviewed the play, Brooks was ejected.
Payton underwent X-rays on his left elbow, and the Warriors ruled him out. After the game, they said he suffered a fractured left elbow. He will undergo an MRI on Wednesday for further evaluation of the injury.
How much time Payton will miss is yet to be determined, but no matter how long he is sidelined, his absence is a major blow to the Warriors.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was livid when the foul happened, screaming at the officiating crew. When Brooks was ejected, Kerr could be heard yelling, “Get the f— out of here, Brooks!”
“I don’t know if it was intentional, but it was dirty,” Kerr said after the game. “There is a code. This code that players follow where you never put a guy’s season (or) career in jeopardy by taking somebody out in mid-air and clubbing him across the head, ultimately fracturing Gary’s elbow … He broke the code. Dillon Brooks broke the code.”
Earlier this season, when the NBA decided to suspend Grayson Allen after he was assessed a flagrant 2 on Alex Caruso, the league did take into consideration that an injury occurred on the play; it was announced a day after the game that Caruso had suffered a right wrist fracture.
The league is expected to speak with members of the Warriors and Grizzlies over the next few days — ahead of Game 3 on Saturday — to decide if Brooks will be suspended.
“It was kind of out of line in terms of a defenseless player going up for the layup and taking a huge wind up,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “Everything bad that could have happened in that situation did. Knocked him out of the game.”
Curry paused for a moment before continuing, “Talk about flagrant 2s, it was definitely one of those.”
Curry’s comment was in regard to the flagrant foul teammate Draymond Green picked up in Game 1 that resulted in his ejection with under two minutes to go in the first half, after hitting Brandon Clarke on the head and grabbing his jersey.
Fourteen seconds after Brooks’ ejection on Tuesday, Green also ended up on the floor in pain. He headed to the locker room for examination, and on his way there, he was seen flipping his middle fingers at the Memphis crowd.
“You gonna boo someone who was elbowed in the eye and face is running with blood, you should get flipped off,” Green said. “I’ll take the fine. I’ll do an appearance and make up the money. It felt really good to flip them off … if they are going to be that nasty, I will be nasty, too. I’m assuming the cheers were because they know I’ll be fined. Great — I make $25 million a year, I should be just fine.”
Green received stitches on his right eye and returned to the game. Kerr said Green was OK but “was struggling” and “it was really tough” for him out there.
Payton and Green are two of the Warriors’ best and most important defenders. Without Payton — who had started the first two games of this series because of his defense — the Warriors will be forced to assign someone else the primary assignment of guarding Ja Morant, who tied his playoff career high with 47 points.
Kerr said the hope is that Andre Iguodala, who missed the first two games of the series with a left cervical disk injury, will return in time to defend Morant in Game 3.
Heading into Game 2, both teams said they expected a physical battle. Kerr went as far as to say it was going to be the most physical game the Warriors have played in all season.
“Playoff basketball is supposed to be physical,” Kerr said. “Everybody’s going to compete. Everyone is going to fight for everything.”
To an extent, this game lived up to that. The Warriors knew they needed to match, if not exceed, the level of physicality the Grizzlies would bring.
Memphis is a team that creates its best offense through forcing turnovers and dominating the glass. In Game 1, Golden State beat them in both categories. In Game 2, the Warriors won the battle on the boards again, outrebounding the Grizzlies 52-47 (including 14 offensive rebounds), but did themselves a disservice with 18 turnovers leading to 15 Grizzlies points.
Ahead of the game, the sentiment from the Warriors was that they were not concerned about their defense, but more so about executing on offense. It was the right concern, as the Warriors shot 40-of-95 from the floor, including just 7-of-38 from 3 — their worst 3-point shooting percentage in a postseason game over the past 25 seasons.
Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole were a combined 0-of-13 on contested 3-point attempts.
“We let one get away in terms of some self-inflicted wounds — turnovers, shot selection — and we’re going to spend all three days (off) with that feeling,” Curry said. “But we understand what we need to do and how we need to play and the things we need to focus on. We have to commit to doing that come Saturday.”
No one from either side was surprised at the level of intensity in Game 2. After all: “It’s a playoff series. It’s the way it should be,” Curry said.
However, just three minutes into the game, Kerr says the line between physical and reckless was crossed.
“The line is pretty clear,” Kerr said. “You don’t hit on the head when he’s in mid-air, breaking his elbow. That’s where the line is.”
ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.