The San Antonio Spurs’ playoff run has hit its second major disaster after Kawhi Leonard re-injured his ankle in Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors
Leonard went up for a jumpshot during the third quarter while the Spurs were up over 20 points on the Warriors but landed awkwardly after Zaza Pachulia slid under him during his closeout. Kawhi was forced to leave the game early and will miss Game 2.
That’s left Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich furious, and his anger hadn’t subsided during shootaround Monday morning. Popvich went on a scathing rant, blasting Pachulia for his role in Leonard’s injury and questioning his history of dirty play.
Popovich was still fuming while he spoke with media, not holding back while giving his thoughts on Pachulia hurting his star player.
“This particular individual has a history with that kind of action. You can look back at Dallas games where he got a flagrant 2 for elbowing Patty Mills. The play where he took Kawhi down and locked his arm in Dallas and could have broken his arm,” Popovich said.
“Think about the history he’s had and what that means to a team, what happened last night. Totally unnatural closeout that the league has outlawed years ago and pays great attention to,” Popovich said.
How mad is Popovich? He’s so mad he actually used manslaughter as a way to respond to the question of whether he felt Pachulia intentionally closed out the way he did to hurt Kawhi.
“Who gives a damn about what his intent was? You ever hear of manslaughter? You still go to jail, I think, when you’re texting and you end up killing somebody. But you might not have intended to do that.
“All I care is what I saw. All I care about is what happened and the history there exacerbates the whole situation, and makes me very very angry,” Popovich said.
There’s without a doubt a history of Pachulia doing “dirty” things in games, and Popovich has had a front row seat to some of it. His arm lock on Leonard was blatant, and once again Zaza finds himself getting tangled with Kawhi.
The NBA couldn’t possibly prove whether Pachulia intended to force Leonard into an awkward landing moments after he tweaked his ankle once. Popovich’s point seems to be, regardless of intention, that this kind of play should be punished when it happens.
The league has definitely cracked down on closeouts that infringe on the shooter’s ability to land safely, and there’s no way Pachulia wasn’t aware that kind of closeout is outlawed.