When Kawhi Leonard went down, it changed that game entirely and maybe the entire season for the Spurs if he’s not right.
So then the obvious question, did Warrior Zaza Pachulia intentionally hurt Leonard, who was already hobbled after stepping on a teammate on the bench earlier in the game?
Twitter decided he did. But… I don’t see it that way. Sure, this is a guy who plays with an edge and will do whatever he needs to do to help the team. But does that include intentionally taking out the other guy’s best player? Playing with an edge doesn’t mean you’re dirty.
He’s a 7-foot center closing out on a three pointer. He’s not exactly graceful on the closeout, but he’s also not looking at the floor to try to figure out where to put his foot so he can hurt an opposing player.
Again, we’re talking about a 7 footer, chasing a far superior athlete, with his team down 20, and challenging a shot. And we’re supposed to think, in that moment, he would strategically place his foot exactly where Leonard would land and do it with his eyes back up the court. C’mon. No chance.
And don’t forget, Leonard was already dinged. That’s not intentional. It was just a really bad break for the Spurs.
And no, it doesn’t matter that he was called for a foul on the play. There’s a huge difference between being called for a foul on a closeout and then going out to intentionally injury someone. I don’t’ think he’s that type of player. And I know they’re not that type of team.
Just as I know these two teams have way too much respect for each other for that happen. Pop and Steve Kerr are right. Mike Brown came up under Pop. And the Warriors have too much respect for Kawhi Leonard for one of their guys to try to intentionally take him out. It wasn’t intentional. And it’s not a controversial play. It was a common foul.
Leonard himself said he didn’t think it was a dirty play. And I don’t either. I hate that a play like that could impact not only that game but the entire series, but I don’t think it was intentional.