SAN ANTONIO – It has been less than 24 hours since tipoff of Game 1 between the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors in this year’s Western Conference Finals and the talk around the water cooler Monday morning is: Do you think Zaza Pachulia purposefully stuck his foot under MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard?
In Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets, Leonard injured his left ankle during the fourth quarter and did not return for the rest of the game, sidelining him for Game 6’s clinching win.
After nearly five days of rest, Leonard returned to the hardwood to face Curry and company to only later reinjure his left ankle twice early in the 3rd quarter.
Leonard extended his left foot toward the Spurs bench, stepping on the foot of teammate David Lee after knocking down a corner three-pointer.
Spurs’ Jonathan Simmons entered the game for Leonard with the Spurs up on the Warriors 72-52 with 9:18 left in the 3rd quarter.
Leonard later returned to the game with 8:44 on the game clock and less than a minute later, Warriors’ Zaza Pachulia engaged in a controversial “dirty” play on Leonard.
Many took to social media to call Pachulia’s slide or extra step under Leonard’s landing area as a “dirty play” to intentionally hurt the Spurs’ star forward.
During postgame interview, Pachulia was asked to respond to Spurs fans and others who were calling his contested play on Leonard as dirty.
“I mean that’s really stupid (and) I don’t think I should be making a comment. I don’t think I’m that good to be making intentional stuff like that,” Pachulia said. “I’m pretty sure we are capable of beating anybody who’s healthy (and) I’m not standing for it.”
Leonard was asked during his postgame interview if he thought Pachulia purposely slid underneath him during his fade away shot.
“No. He was contesting the shot, the clock was coming down. I’ll have to see the play,” Leonard said.
— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) May 14, 2017
Scroll below to check out reaction from Spurs and NBA fans alike shortly after Leonard’s exit – who scored 26 points with eight rebounds – and of the Warriors overcoming a 25-point deficit to defeat the Spurs 113-111, taking a 1-0 series lead over the Silver and Black.
For those saying it wasn't dirty... https://t.co/RSD5RAGs9W— Max Kellerman (@maxkellerman) May 14, 2017
Zaza took an extra step after Kawhi released the ball— Tom Petrini (@RealTomPetrini) May 14, 2017
Dirty as all hellpic.twitter.com/MJhNLAVn1h
DIRTY PLAY BY PACHULIA. OBVIOUS ATTEMPT TO GET UNDERNEATH KAWHI'S BAD ANKLE.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 14, 2017
"Go tell Zaza to break Kawhi's ankle or we're going to go home like Harden and Westbrook"— Arab Iverson ♛ (@nadineee23) May 14, 2017
As of this morning, sliding under a guy to take out an ankle was known as the Bruce Bowen move. Imagine it’ll be more popularly the Zaza now— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) May 14, 2017
Zaza better be careful when they come to San Antonio that's all I'm saying 🤷🏽♀️ pic.twitter.com/82rMC6ujT8— angelica (@angelicaaa_9) May 14, 2017
I do not think Zaza Pachulia’s shot contest was intentional. Kawhi Leonard being injured sucks. This has been a hot take. Plz don't @ me thx— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) May 14, 2017
Follow Zaza's eyes. He did it on purpose? pic.twitter.com/bT4GsbndmE— JaysonTatUmaThurMannieFresh (@SnottieDrippen) May 14, 2017
Huh? Draymond screams "motherf***er" in a dude's face and Zaza undercuts a jump-shooter (incredibly dirty). What am I missing? https://t.co/BTHfqy8JNj— Ben Dowsett (@Ben_Dowsett) May 14, 2017
"Zaza would never hurt Kawhi on purpose he's just a big goofball"pic.twitter.com/pbqQAGgLVm— Tom Petrini (@RealTomPetrini) May 15, 2017
Kawhi was already hurting when Pachulia KO'd both him & the Spurs' chances in this series -- which were apparently better than I'd thought.— Max Kellerman (@maxkellerman) May 14, 2017
KD on fans alleging that Zaza Pachulia intentionally slid under Kawhi. "You can't listen to people on Twitter. They're irrational."— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) May 14, 2017
The Warriors crowd booing an injured Kawhi Leonard as he hobbles off the floor is digusting. What a terrible fan base. Unbelievable.— Justin Mendoza (@Coach_Doza) May 14, 2017
RT to show the rest of the NBA that your Spurs pride will NEVER die!!— Spurs DeMar DeRozan (@SpursDeRozan) May 14, 2017
GO SPURS GO!!! pic.twitter.com/ZextzQwVHs
For the record, SA also won by north of 30 in last game, without Kawhi. That will somehow be forgotten and it's only a few days ago.— Colin Cowherd (@ColinCowherd) May 14, 2017
This game has basically been Kawhi Leonard's case for MVP.— Matt Dollinger (@matt_dollinger) May 14, 2017