Midway through the third quarter yesterday during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors, Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard went up for a jump shot, landed on the foot of Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, and Leonard sprained his already sore left ankle.
Leonard, who had 26 points and 8 rebounds at the time, left the game and would not return. The Spurs had a 21-point lead at the time of the injury; they would go on to lose the game, 113-111. Leonard is likely out for Game 2 and his availability going forward in the series remains unknown.
While voices on social media suggested Pachulia tried to injure Leonard on the play, both Pahulia and Leonard said after the game that it was not an intentional play.
But speaking to reporters today in Oakland at San Antonio’s practice, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he felt Pachulia’s play was “unnatural.”
“Ask David West, his current teammate, how things went when Zaza was playing for Dallas, and he and David got into it. And then think about the history [Zaza has] had, and what that means to a team…what happened last night. A totally unnnatural closeout that the league has outlawed, years ago, and pays great attention to. And Kawhi’s not there. And you want to know how we feel about it? You want to know if that lessens our chances or not? We’re playing very possibly the best team in the league—you know, we don’t know what’s going to happen in the East. And 9.75 people out of 10 will figure the Warriors will beat the Spurs. You know, we’ve had a pretty damn good season, we’ve played fairly well in the Playoffs. I think we’re getting better. We were up 23 points in the third quarter, against Golden State, and Kawhi goes down. Like that. And you want to know if our chances are less, and you want to know how we feel? That’s how we feel.”
The Spurs will look to bounce back without their star during Game 2 on Tuesday (9 ET, ESPN).