Last night in Milwaukee, the Grizzlies lost their fourth game in a row after a close-fought game in which their effort just couldn't make up for their lack of offense, and then probably lost one of their two or three best remaining players for at least a game. It was... not great.
After three quarters, the Griz led the Bucks 73-68, but that's where it all fell apart; the Grizzlies were able to score only 2 points in the first six minutes of the final frame, and finished with only 13 in the quarter, while Milwaukee's bench unit defended them well and kept them from running even the simplified, basic sets they've been getting into lately. All the Grizzlies could do was take contested shots and contested layups, and it didn't work out.
And then, we got to The End Of The Game.
With 5.5 seconds left in the game, this happened:
And look, let's just be honest about this: it was pretty dumb.
Henson had been jawing all night, and the seeds for this particular insanity were planted earlier on in the evening when he took Lance Stephenson to the floor and then taunted him, earning a flagrant foul and a technical in the process. Lance looked like he wanted to fight, but Barnes did, too, and so a Barnes/Henson incident was brewing. They continued to have a friendly conversation for most of the rest of the game.
And then, you see what happened. The Grizzlies weren't fouling, Barnes goes for the layup but it's not going to keep the Bucks from winning—they just have to get the ball back and dribble out the clock, but instead, Henson blocks it, taunts Barnes (but turns away when Barnes starts talking back) and flexes for the crowd for blocking what was supposed to be an easy layup in a game that was already over.
Both were assessed technicals, which meant that Henson was ejected. Barnes then ran off the court—down the Bucks' tunnel but, as you can see on the video, past the door to the Bucks' locker room—and it's unclear whether (1) he was subbed out and then took off or (2) he just took off and the Grizzlies had to sub somebody in so they could run the clock out and get out of Milwaukee before anything else dumb happened. The official box score says no Griz players were ejected, and the official play-by-play says "Barnes ejection: No ejection," so it's pretty clear that Barnes left the court without being tossed.
The rest is pieced together from Twitter:
Several sources said Barnes entered Bucks locker room after game looking for Henson.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) March 18, 2016
Both Henson and Barnes were escorted from BC by a spate of security guards.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) March 18, 2016
Hearing that Barnes got as far down the hall as the door to the #Bucks' locker room but there was no off-court confrontation with anyone.— Pratik Patel (@PatelESPN) March 18, 2016
Matt Barnes did not enter the Bucks locker room tonight.— Aron Yohannes (@AronYohannes) March 18, 2016
So, whatever. The coolest part of this whole episode is this: Now Matt Barnes is almost certainly going to be suspended for at least a game, at a point in the season where he and Tony Allen are the only starters who have, y'know, been starters on and off all year long. Barnes recently got a triple double, scored 20 points in this Bucks game, and has generally been a steadying veteran influence on the Grizzlies as they try desperately to hold things together down the stretch. Last night, he undid most of that, and without him, the Grizzlies almost certainly can't win a game (and really, it was starting to look like they might only win one or two more anyway).
I'm reminded of the Z-Bo/Perkins "I'll Beat Your Ass" incident:
In which Randolph got tossed and went looking for Perkins in the locker room after the game. The difference here, of course, is that Randolph was already tossed from the game and off the court when all of this happened—he didn't go charging down the opposite tunnel after a player who had already been ejected. Randolph was fined for the incident (and it also gave us such quotes as "I'm a jackin' dude" and also gave birth to "We Don't Bluff"). What's different here, the thing that I think will get Barnes suspended, is the fact that he ran off the court and down the tunnel after Henson.
That was, honestly, the really stupid part. Basketball is a tough game, and a physical one, and the Grizzlies are clearly frustrated by their inability to win some of these games they know they have to win. I get that. And I get being mad. And, in any sport, there are going to be fights and near-fights. Guys take the game seriously, and sometimes that means their emotions get the best of them. But I have to think if Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are in Barnes' ear last night, he doesn't take off after Henson. The lack of a steadying presence on the team right now is what makes them so interesting, and it also can have consequences.
As for Barnes and his reputation, of course, Jason Concepcion (now of the Ringer) gets to the heart of the matter:
at some point matt barnes may realize that the common denominator in the various altercations he's involved in is himself— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) March 18, 2016
I'm sure the league will review whatever happened and hand out punishments as they see fit. I'm not expecting Barnes to be available for Saturday night's game against the Clippers, but we'll see.