Zaza Pachulia, Golden State Warriors’ center, has made the top of the list for the most hated man in San Antonio. Why? Because he messed with our Spurs. He purposely injured our star player, Kawhi Leonard, during Game 1 and has a record of playing dirty. Zaza put his foot underneath Leonard when he went up for a jump shot. When Leonard came down, he landed on Zaza’s foot and injured his ankle even more. Leonard was forced to sit out the rest of Game 1 and all of Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
Many sports analysts have gone back and forth about whether it was a dirty play or not. While some analysts like to give him the benefit of the doubt, others say they needed a push to win since they were down by over 20 points at the time. With Zaza’s dirty playing record, he’s been under fire – even Gregg Popovich had a lot to say about him.
“Because he’s got this history, it can’t just be, oh, it was inadvertent. He didn’t have intent. 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 about 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.”
Zaza claimed he didn’t know what he did wrong in the moment and said he has the upmost respect for Leonard and Coach Pop. Zaza was quick to defend his plays on the court as well.
“My approach to this game for 14 years that I’ve been in the league is to play hard and give my 100 percent, whatever I have. So I don’t agree with the calls that I’m a dirty player. I’m not a dirty player. I just love this game, and I play hard. It’s how I was taught since Day One, honestly. So that’s what I’ve been doing.”
What’s done is done. Now, we just have to light our Spurs candles for Kawhi’s ankle. Here’s a quick recap of the first 2 games of the Western Conference Finals:
Kawhi Leonard was back starting on the court after sitting through the last game against Houston. The Spurs were on fire. The Warriors couldn’t seem to catch their rhythm – until after halftime. The Warriors overcame their largest halftime deficit ever in the postseason at 20 points.
Leonard left the game in the third quarter with 26 points and 8 rebounds, after re-injuring his ankle. At this point, the Spurs were up by 23. The Warriors capitalized with an 18-0 run. Steph Curry led the Warriors on a 21-4 run. Curry had 19 points in the third quarter alone.
During the fourth quarter, the Spurs were leading by 9, but Kevin Durant’s consecutive shots put the Warriors ahead. With just minutes left in the game, the Warriors and Spurs were taking turns with the lead. Steph Curry hit a 3-pointer and tied the game with just 1:48 left on the clock. With 9 seconds left, Golden State was up by 3. Patty Mills was fouled on a shot he missed. He nailed the first shot, but purposely missed the second shot to try to tie the game. Unfortunately, the ball was slapped off the court.
LaMarcus Aldridge had another clutch performance with 28 points and 8 boards., but it wasn’t enough to bring the Spurs back on top. The Warriors finished 113-111.
Game 2 returned to the Warriors home court, and Leonard was still out. There was trouble for the Spurs from the start. Curry alone had 15 points in the first quarter, and the Spurs had 16 points collectively. The Warriors were hitting threes with ease. The Warriors were leading 72-44 at the half.
Karma must be working its magic because Zaza left Game 2 with a heel injury and is scheduled to have an MRI. Ironically, he injured Leonard’s foot, and now he has injured his own foot. When Zaza went up for a dunk, he landed awkwardly on his foot when he landed. Pachulia tried to play through his injury, but was pulled from the game at halftime. Zaza already had X-rays on his foot and the results were fine. We’ll have to wait and see what the MRI shows.
Even with Zaza out, the Warriors had no problem getting the W. The Warriors finished 136-100.
Game 3 and 4 will hopefully be in the Spurs’ favor back in San Antonio. There are still rumors if Kawhi will be playing, so come see for yourself. Get your tickets to the Western Conference Finals right here, and cheer on your Spurs!