Less than three minutes into the Grizzlies’ 106-101 Game 2 victory on Tuesday, Brooks was assessed a flagrant-two and ejected for a blow to Payton’s head during a transition play. The force of Brooks’s foul sent Payton crashing to the court, and X-rays subsequently revealed that the guard had fractured his left elbow. The Warriors announced Thursday that an MRI also revealed some ligament and muscle damage, and that Payton will be reevaluated in two weeks.
Warriors Coach Steve Kerr and several players took exception to Brooks’s foul, noting that it had the potential to injure Payton, the son of Hall of Famer Gary Payton, and alter his career prospects. The 29-year-old guard has played for four NBA teams and spent time in the G League since going undrafted out of Oregon State in 2016.
“It was dirty,” Kerr said of Brooks’s foul. “Playoff basketball is supposed to be physical. Everybody is going to compete and fight for everything, but there’s a code in this league and a code that players follow. You never put a guy’s season [or] career in jeopardy. Taking somebody out in midair, clubbing him across the head and ultimately fracturing Gary’s elbow. [Payton] is a guy who has been toiling the last six years trying to make it in this league. He finally found a home, just playing his butt off this year, in the playoffs, this should be the time of his life. [Brooks] comes in, whacks him across the head. He broke the code. Dillon Brooks broke the code.”
Payton had worked himself into a crucial role as Golden State’s premier perimeter defender. After coming off the bench in the first round, Payton was inserted into the starting lineup for defensive purposes against Grizzlies star Ja Morant, who exploded for 47 points in Game 2.
The Grizzlies will miss Brooks, who has started every game in the playoffs, with starting guard Desmond Bane limited by back tightness. Bane scored just 5 points in 32 minutes in Game 2. In Brooks’s absence, Memphis Coach Taylor Jenkins turned to rookie guard Ziaire Williams to fill minutes.
“They reviewed it and they made their judgment,” Jenkins said of Brooks’s ejection. “Obviously [he] made contact to the head. Trust what the refs did. Our guys stepped up. It was a great battle. Ready for Game 3.”
The physical matchup between the Grizzlies and Warriors saw Draymond Green get ejected from Game 1 for a flagrant-two on Brandon Clarke. Both Green and Morant also suffered eye injuries in Game 2 but were able to continue playing. Green, who lifted his arms and raised his middle fingers while being booed as he left the court to receive treatment, was fined $25,000 for “directing an obscene gesture toward the spectator stands,” the league announced Thursday.
“If you’re going to boo somebody who gets elbowed in the eye [and] whose face is running down blood, you should get flipped off,” Green said after the game. “I’ll take the fine, and I’ll go do an appearance and make up the money. It felt really good to flip them off. … If they’re going to be that nasty, I can be nasty, too. I’m assuming the cheers were because they know I’m going to get fined. Great. I make $25 million a year. I should be just fine.”
Brooks’s suspension was in line with the one-game suspension given to Milwaukee Bucks guard Grayson Allen, who delivered a flagrant-two foul to Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso on a similar play in January.