Is Zaza Pachulia Dirty And Can The Spurs Win Without Kawhi?

Is Zaza Pachulia Dirty And Can The Spurs Win Without Kawhi?
Warriors at Wizards 2/28/17
Warriors at Wizards 2/28/17

Is Zaza Pachulia a dirty player? That’s the question everyone is asking after the big man undercut Kawhi Leonard on a play that resulted in injury.

Leonard rolled his ankle after a Pachulia undercut him while closing out on a jumpshot. The MVP candidate will most miss game two of the Spurs-Warriors series due to the injury. The questionable play upset a lot of people, including Skip Bayless (via Fox Sports):

“In all my years of rooting for my Spurs, and my Dallas Cowboys, I have never ever been more sickened by a loss than I was by that thing that I witnessed yesterday. “A guy named Zaza went hockey goon… “In the end, Zaza Pachulia — I can’t believe I’m even saying his name live on national television — intentionally stuck his Size 17 foot under the gimpy ankle of Kawhi Leonard, the best two-way player in basketball.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich also railed against the “totally unnatural close out” during a post-game interview, reminding audiences that the league “outlawed” the play years ago. But, many fans were quick to point out that the Spurs own players like Pau Gasol, David Lee and Bruce Bowen have all used the exact same closeout. In fact, Gasol closed out on Steph Curry in an almost identical fashion during the same game (although, Gasol’s move didn’t result in injury).

Since the incident, Pachulia has firmly denied that he’s a “dirty player”, and claimed he has nothing but respect for his opponents.

“I really feel bad for the guy,” Pachulia told reporters after the Warriors practice on Monday. “I wish it didn’t happen and it had a different result, but it’s a game, and there are some things that you can’t control. I have a lot of respect for Kawhi. I think he’s one of the best players in this league.”

In fact, Leonard himself told The San Antonio Express-News that he didn’t believe the injury was intentional and thinks Pachulia was just trying to contest the shot.

So, there’s no real consensus on the play, but one thing is certain – commentator Colin Cowherd doesn’t want anyone saying that injury may have changed the course of the series [via Fox Sports]:
“This Spurs organization [has] no excuses now. You wouldn’t give LeBron an inch of his excuse when they lost Kyrie and Kevin Love in the Finals. I don’t want to hear Gregg Popovich now [saying] ‘we can’t win without [Kawhi]. You were 8-1 this year without Kawhi! You are 14-4. The Patriots won a Super Bowl without Gronk. The Warriors won 14 straight without Kevin Durant. I’ll give you a pass yesterday, it was de-stabilized, but you have shown an ability to win games and get here with all sorts of injuries.”

2 Responses to "Is Zaza Pachulia Dirty And Can The Spurs Win Without Kawhi?"

  1. Rich (In Name Only) in Reno   Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    What’s weird is that everyone seems to be ignoring the fact that Leonard had rolled his ankle once already a few minutes earlier, and that Coach Popovich decided to send Leonard back into the game with a bad ankle. Why is nobody questioning an obviously bad coaching decision?

  2. Ed Graham   Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    I have no horse in this competition- if I have a team it’s the Celtics. I also saw the Warriors-Spurs game- Pachulia cannot be called a dirty player or accused of deliberately causing Leonard to sprain his ankle a second time in this game. There is zero evidence that this was anything but a very unfortunate accident. Why not, just as well, blame Leonard’s teammate for the first ankle sprain?