Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant is doubtful to return during the playoffs, as an MRI revealed a bone bruise in his right knee, the team announced on Tuesday. Morant injured his knee in the second half of Saturday’s Game 3 loss to the Golden State Warriors and did not play in Game 4 on Monday.
Morant missed nine games with a right knee injury in March. On April 24, two weeks before Game 4 of the Warriors series, Morant said that he was not 100 percent healthy. This was after Game 4 of Memphis’ series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Morant’s fifth game since returning from the injury that sidelined him for more than two weeks.
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said that this injury occurred when Warriors guard Jordan Poole when seemingly swiping for the ball. It happened with 6:19 remaining in the fourth quarter, and Morant exited the game afterward.
Morant tweeted after the game that Poole “broke the code,” but quickly deleted it. It was in reference to Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s quote about Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks, who was suspended for Game 3 after committing a flagrant foul against Warriors guard Gary Payton II in Game 2, who suffered a fractured elbow on the play. While Brooks was suspended a game for his part in Payton’s injury, Poole did not face any punishment from the league.
Warriors guard Klay Thompson was not happy with the implication that Poole is to blame for Morant’s injury. “Me, personally. I’ve been through a tough knee injury,” Thompson said. “And I don’t think there’s any malicious intent from Jordan. 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.”
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Morant was excellent in three games against Golden State, averaging 38.3 points on 62.3 percent true shooting, plus 8.3 assists, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 steals, with a usage rate of 34.5 percent. If this is the end of his playoff run, then he averaged 27.1 points, 9.8 assists, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals across nine games against the Timberwolves and Warriors, with a true shooting percentage of 54.9 percent and a usage rate of 30.4 percent.
Memphis famously went 20-5 without Morant during the regular season, allowing the team to earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. It led for much of Game 4, but ran out of steam down the stretch, losing 101-98 after being outscored 39-29 in the fourth quarter. Tyus Jones, starting in place of Morant, played a season-high 41 minutes, and the Grizzlies scored just 94.2 points per 100 possessions, their worst offensive showing since a loss in Dallas on Jan. 23.
Down 3-1 in the series without its franchise player, Memphis faces elimination at FedExForum on Wednesday.