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Steve Kerr, Ja Morant out for Game 5

Coach Kerr did not accompany the Warriors to Memphis, so it looks like Mike Brown will put his perfect Warriors playoff record at risk Wednesday night. Also Ja Morant is hurt.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Golden State Warriors v Denver Nuggets
Steve Kerr and Mike Browns discuss defensive adjustments against COVID variants
Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

In medical news that proves to have huge implications for the remainder of the Golden State Warriors-Memphis Grizzlies second-round series, Coach Steve Kerr didn’t fly to Memphis with the rest of the team today, casting serious doubt on his availability to coach in Game 5 on Wednesday night. Kerr would be replaced for a second straight game by lead assistant and Sacramento Kings coach-elect Mike Brown, who ran his Warriors playoff record to 12-0 with a win in Game 4. Also Ja Morant is out for the playoffs with a bone bruise.

Kerr has missed serious time as Warriors coach over the years. In the 2015-16 season, another future Kings’ coach, Luke Walton, went 39-4 in Kerr’s place as the head coach rehabilitated his back. When the Warriors finished 73-9, Kerr won Coach of the Year, proving that voters have wildly different playing time criteria for that particular post-season award. A year later, Brown stepped in for Kerr after the Warriors won their first two playoff games against Houston, and proceeded to sweep that series and the next two. After 11 straight wins, Kerr took over again in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, going only 3-1 the rest of the way.

Morant missed 12 games early in the season with a sprained knee, and then nine more with an injury that Memphis head coach, Dr. Taylor Jenkins, referred to as a “tweaked knee.” Now, an MRI revealed a bone bruise, which Memphis may have held off publicizing until they were absolutely positive they couldn’t get Jordan Poole suspended. We are not medical professionals here at GSOM, but according to WebMD, a bone bruise is essentially less serious than a bone fracture, and results in “damage to the small blood vessels in the area of the injury. WebMD also says that lump you’re worried about is probably cancer.

How will these teams adjust? For the Warriors, it sounds like Steve Kerr still called and talked to the team at halftime, so it might not be that big of an adjustment. Damion Lee played a lot in Game Four and Jonathan Kuminga had a short leash, but that seems to be a staff-wide trend with the coaches. With Kerr out, there’s added pressure on Bruce Fraser to be extra handsome, as he’s now the sole silver fox on the bench (sorry Ron Adams). It’s not official, but we would assume that Kenny Atkinson will replace Kerr as the Keeper Of The Code.

For the Grizzlies, they started Tyus Jones at point guard, and he played pretty well. Memphis does tend to play better on defense without Morant, despite his propensity for steals. It may simply be that Morant has so much responsibility on offense for Memphis that it makes it impossible for him to max out on the defensive end. It’s also that the Grizzlies other guards are, as a group, fantastic defenders. The Warriors didn’t shoot badly in a vacuum last night, the Grizzlies really D up.

They are going to need someone else to replace the scoring, and that means they either need Dillon Brooks to start making shots, or to stop taking so many shots. It seemed like Jenkins didn’t trust Game Two hero DeAnthony Melton Monday night, where he didn’t play in the second half, but really, any lineup combinations are on the table. Memphis barely lost a road playoff game without one of the best players in the NBA this week - beating them is never going to be a cakewalk.

Nor is recovering from COVID. Get well soon, both you guys!

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