Ask any San Antonio Spurs fan what the worst-case scenario for Game 1 would have been and it's unlikely they would have been able to come up with one as bleak as what actually happened.
The Spurs built up a 25-point lead over the Golden State Warriors, but watched as star forward Kawhi Leonard re-injured his left ankle and had to exit early in the third quarter. From there, the Spurs collapsed and ended up losing the Western Conference Finals opener 113-111.
Leonard shot a two-point jumper and landed on Warriors center Zaza Pachulia's foot on the play that forced him out of the contest, which many viewers felt was a dirty play.
However, after the game, Leonard - who was understandably disappointed - wasn't ready to throw Pachulia under the bus. In fact, he said he didn't see anything wrong with the play:
"Did he step under it, like on purpose? No, he was just contesting a shot," Leonard said. "The shot clock was coming down. I'll have to see the play."
The play in question, which occurred in the third quarter after he had already tweaked it a bit only moments earlier, can be seen below:
Fans on Twitter saw it differently than Leonard, though, as many blasted Pachulia for what they felt was an intentional attempt to injure the Spurs star. That prompted Kevin Durant to defend his teammate in a postgame interview:
Pachulia was only assessed a common foul on the play, and no one on the court seemed to take too much issue with the referee's decision.
However, the fact of the matter remains that Leonard's absence likely cost the Spurs the chance to hold on for a Game 1 victory. He'll get an MRI on his ankle on Sunday night, according to ESPN.com.
Leonard told reporters he's not sure what his timetable to return to the court is after hurting his ankle twice in quick succession on Sunday night:
"I'm not sure," he said. "It's very painful because I tweaked it before on the last time, the last shot I shot. It's hard to tell right now. I definitely couldn't go in that last [part of] the third quarter. We'll see how I get better each day."
If Leonard can't play in Game 2 on Tuesday night, the Spurs - who are already without point guard Tony Parker for the remainder of the postseason - will have a tough time beating the Warriors, who are now 9-0 during the playoffs.
The Spurs eliminated the Houston Rockets in Game 6 of the conference semifinals without Leonard, though, so it would be unwise of the Warriors to take a Gregg Popovich-coached team lightly, even if their star player is unable to take the court.