Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs aren’t exactly thrilled to not have Kawhi Leonard at 100 percent going forward, especially against the best team in the league.
The closeout heard around the basketball world by Zaza Pachulia on Sunday in the third quarter on Kawhi puts Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs in a bind. They were in great position to steal Game 1 on the road against the heavily-favored Golden State Warriors, and then the borderline-dirty Pachulia was back at it again.
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For some reason, he took another awkward step that left his foot under Leonard, who already injured his ankle in San Antonio’s previous series against the Houston Rockets. Zaza has had multiple controversial incidents on his resume throughout his career, and Gregg Popovich had some things to say on that today:
Gregg Popovich on Zaza's closeout on Kawhi yesterday… 😨 #GoSpursGo #FollowUp pic.twitter.com/GkRcRzWtZS
— TBN (@TBNMedia) May 15, 2017
Yeah, I feel for you, Pop. I understand people want to give Pachulia the benefit of the doubt; he can be clumsy at times. However, Pop hit the nail on the head in demonstrating that this isn’t exactly the first incident involving Pachulia. He’s right.
Pop believes 9.75 people out of 10 would probably pick the Dubs over the Spurs, if not more. I thought even with a win yesterday — they could maybe win one more game. With Kawhi now likely out for Game 2, the Spurs are going to have even slimmer chances. I realize they somehow annihilated the Rockets without Leonard to close out on the road, but the Warriors are a different animal. CBS Sports spelled out the loss of the superstar perfectly:
Just so we're clear… Kawhi's injury was a VERY big deal. pic.twitter.com/cHSwWF7EMn
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) May 14, 2017
I think Pachulia tried to be slick and did this on purpose, given his suspect history that Pop touched on. That said, we’ll never really know anyway, and unfortunately what’s done is done. Nonetheless, let’s not forget about how Bruce Bowen did this repeatedly while being recognized as a lockdown defender on the Spurs. It wasn’t your fault, right Bruce?
Dahntay Jones, now on the Cleveland Cavaliers, did that walk-under step on Kobe Bryant, too when he was on the Atlanta Hawks. As Zito Madu of SB Nation illustrates in a fantastic piece, this subtle exaggeration of a closeout is not a new problem in the Association.
You’d think a guy that’s played as long as Zaza has would somehow not be this unaware of how close he was when he stepped under Leonard. I mean of ALL teams, the Warriors should never allow this practice on defense. Here’s Pablo Torre on that (again, thanks, Zito):
Kawhi landing on Zaza's foot reminds me of what GSW asst coach Bruce Fraser said when I'd asked him how much he worries about Steph's ankles pic.twitter.com/nhWlDQfHWS
— Pablo S. Torre (@PabloTorre) May 14, 2017
The Spurs just have to figure it out now. Good luck with that. At least they have Pop, though. #FollowUp.
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