So far this series has given everything NBA fans could want, close games, a blooming superstar showing out, and tough, physical play, but the series has been overshadowed by two flagrant fouls by Golden State Warriors defensive star Draymond Green and Memphis Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks.
Both of the games so far in these series have been extremely close, with a one-point deficit in game one, which resulted in a Warriors win. In the second game, a five-point deficit resulted in a Grizzlies win to tie up the series, 1-1.
Warrior’s personnel were fuming after the flagrant two by Brooks:
As the Warriors dropped game two on the road, key-rotational-piece Gary Payton II suffered a fractured elbow as a result of Brooks’s flagrant two. Even with a fractured elbow, Payton II still stepped up to the line and took his free throws, making one in the process, showing he has the heart of a Warrior. Whether the flagrant two was intentional or not, the foul was reckless regardless.
“Well, I don’t know if it was intentional but it was dirty,” Kerr said. “Playoff basketball is gonna be… it’s supposed to be physical. Everybody’s gonna compete. Everybody’s gonna fight for everything but there’s a code in this league that players follow where you never put a guy’s season/career in jeopardy by taking somebody out in midair and clubbing them across the head and ultimately fracturing their elbow.”
The injury to Payton II is a gigantic blow to the Warrior’s defensive identity. He is the best defender on the Warriors, as well as a sneaky good offensive option. Without Payton II, this makes it increasingly more difficult to cover Memphis superstar Ja Morant.
In the regular season, according to @GSWReddit, Payton II held Morant to 2/12 shooting, scoring just seven points and also forcing five turnovers in 16 minutes of play. Even though it is a small sample size, it still shows the impact that Payton II had on Morant and the game itself.
Payton II has been a journeyman in the NBA, playing for seven different NBA and G-League teams. Just as he was finding his footing in the NBA, he suffered a career-altering injury. It was expected that Payton II was going to get paid this offseason, but with a fractured elbow at the age of 29, and the uncertainty looming with how long he could possibly miss, there is no telling how much money Brooks has cost him.
Payton II has been through the wringer throughout his NBA career. What makes this injury hit so hard for Warrior fans, is that he became a fan favorite because of his defensive intensity and the passion that he plays. The Warriors have every right to feel livid after Brook’s flagrant two. It was unnecessary and dangerous.
“This is a guy who’s been toiling the last 6 years trying to make it in this league,” Kerr said. ”Finally found a home… just playing his butt off this year in the playoffs this should be the time of his life and a guy comes in and whacks him across the head in midair. He broke the code. Dillon Brooks broke the code, that’s how I see it.”