Kawhi Leonard left Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals after rolling his ankle badly enough that he could not continue. There was some drama as the replay revealed that Zaza Pachulia had placed his foot underneath the Spurs superstar after he went up for a jumpshot.
Many fans debated whether he meant to injure The Klaw or not, but no one will ever really be able to tell what his true intent was. After hearing the news, the big man absolutely denied trying to injure his opponent, despite there being some modest history between he and San Antonio.
Still, the fans missed their star in Game 2 and Golden State took advantage of some well-timed injury luck to take a 2-0 series lead. Coach Gregg Popovich said after the game that his roster had the look of a team that felt sorry for themselves after being told that Kawhi was still injured.
Game 3 brings no better news for the Texas franchise as they will be without Leonard for their first home game of the series on Saturday. Coach Pop announced that today before tip-off and said that he would have to give it a go without his most important player.
The coach told the media: “In the end, I guess it’s my decision. He’s not thrilled that he’s not playing, but he’s not ready so we’re not going to play him.”
Leonard has made it known that he really wishes to be in the lineup and until this injury had recorded a very impressive postseason. Now, all of San Antonio’s fortunes have flipped. They led Game 1 by almost 30 points while they had their star and now they are looking for momentum.
Tony Parker went down during the last series and they have been an entire 10 points worse per 100 possessions with The Klaw off the floor during this postseason. Still, in true Popovich fashion, he doesn’t want to see any of his squad giving in to the negativity.
He is using a “next man up” mentality to argue that the team has to be ready even when it is missing key pieces like Leonard and TP. After so many years, the infrastructure looks barren right now due to injuries and that means Manu Ginobili has to will the team to a victory.
This time last year, the team had Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Parker and Ginobili. The injury situation casts an even bigger spotlight on the force of Duncan’s absence than ever before as the Spurs are looking at an uphill battle.
LA has been relatively quiet this series and if San Antonio is going to take even a single game from the Dubs, he will have to step up big time.