Kawhi Leonard went down twice in the third quarter of Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors with left ankle injuries similar to the one he suffered against the Houston Rockets that kept him out of Friday’s game.
The second came as Leonard landed awkwardly on the outstretched foot of Zaza Pachulia, who was defending him. It looked like a reckless play and was enough to keep Leonard out of the remainder of Game 1.
That sent Leonard to the locker room, where he was ruled out for the game. The Spurs ultimately blew a 25-point lead without Leonard and lost Game 1, 113-111. We’re going to be talking about this play for a long time.
Leonard, for his part, did not think Pachulia’s play was dirty.
Kawhi told me he does not think the Zaza play was dirty. Said he was just contesting the shot.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) May 14, 2017
Neither does Pachulia.
Zaza on being blamed for Kawhi coming down on his foot: "When you are 6-11 and you play hard you get blamed for a lot of things." #WCFinals— Sekou Smith (@SekouSmithNBA) May 14, 2017
But it sure looked strange
Pachulia’s foot was planted after Leonard’s release a step in front of him. For some reason, after Leonard fired, Pachulia inched another few feet closer, causing the Spurs’ star to land directly on him.
Leonard was injured enough to leave the game just minutes before, and one more tweak sat him on the bench for good.
Off a made three-pointer, Leonard backpedaled and tripped on his own teammate on the bench the first time he went down earlier in the quarter. He asked to sub out and then came back in a few minutes later.
It was tough to watch him in pain on the ground, but impossible to ignore the bizarre defensive play that seemingly could have been avoided. It swung Game 1 to the Warriors and could spoil the entire series for San Antonio if Leonard cannot return for future games.