Before Game 2 of the Warriors and Grizzlies’ second-round series, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that he expected the contest to be the most physical his team would play all year.
He was both right and wrong about that.
“That wasn’t physical. It was dirty,” Kerr told TNT after the first quarter.
The Warriors exited the cage match battered, bruised, down a member of their roster and tied 1-1 in the series.
Draymond Green played three quarters with his eye swollen shut after he took an elbow to the face. Both Steph Curry and Jordan Poole both spent more time on the floor than at the free-throw line.
But the true subject of Kerr’s ire came in the first quarter, when the Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks, with no discernible intent to make a basketball play, came up from behind a leaping Gary Payton II, who was attempting a layup, and bashed him in the head while pushing him in the back.
Payton was understandably knocked off balance mid-flight and fell onto his left arm, fracturing his elbow in the process, in all likelihood ending his season.
“I don’t know if it was intentional, but it was dirty,” Kerr said. “Playoff basketball is supposed to be physical… But there’s a code in this league. There’s a code that… you never put a guy’s season [or] career in jeopardy by taking somebody out in mid-air and clubbing them across the head, ultimately fracturing Gary’s elbow.”
“The line is pretty clear,” Kerr continued. “You don’t hit a guy when he’s in midair, club him and break his elbow. That’s where the line is.”