Acting Golden State Warriors coach Mike Brown is standing by his player after some blistering criticism from Gregg Popovich.
Brown backed center Zaza Pachulia over the controversy involving his defending against San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, dismissing it as Popovich defending his own player and arguing that LaMarcus Aldridge did something similar in the same game.
Mike Brown says Pop is "protecting his guy" by calling out play w/ Zaza and Kawhi. Says LMA did the same thing to Steph a few plays later
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 15, 2017
Popovich ripped Pachulia for what he perceived to be an illegal closeout. Brown obviously isn’t too concerned about that, and there was never any doubt that he was going to stand up for his guy.
Russell Westbrook’s season may be over, but his pettiness levels are still at an all-time high.
On Monday, Westbrook liked a video on Instagram of San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich going off on Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia for the play that injured Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, per Carson Cunningham of KOCO-TV.
Check out the likes, Russell Westbrook approves of Popovich's comments. pic.twitter.com/sIyj7OwtTP
— Carson Cunningham (@KOCOCarson) May 15, 2017
In the rant, Popovich ripped into Pachulia for a “totally unnatural closeout” and called attention to the Georgian big man’s history of dirty plays. Westbrook is, of course, well familiar with that history, having something of a personal vendetta against Pachulia after an incident with him in a game last January. Thus, it’s none too surprising Popovich has found himself at least one prominent ally in the Zaza Pachulia Anti-Fan Club.
Kawhi Leonard may not believe Zaza Pachulia had any ill intent when he caused the San Antonio Spurs star to injure his ankle on Sunday, but Gregg Popovich has an entirely different opinion of the play.
While speaking to reporters on Monday, Popovich revealed that Leonard has been ruled out for Game 2. He also unloaded on Pachulia for the Golden State Warriors big man’s history of dirty plays, including his “totally unnatural closeout” against Leonard.
— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) May 15, 2017
“A totally unnatural closeout that the league outlawed years ago and pays great attention to,” an angry Popovich said. “And Kawhi’s not there. And you want to know how we feel about it? You want to know if that lessens our chances or not?
“We’ve had a pretty damn good season. We’ve played fairly well in the playoffs. I think we’re getting better, and we’re up 23 points in the third quarter against Golden State. And Kawhi goes down like that. And you want to know if our chances are less, and you want to know how we feel — that’s how we feel.”
Pop wasn’t done there. He later said the play made him “very, very angry” when asked a follow-up question.
— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) May 15, 2017
Pachulia probably wasn’t trying to intentionally injure Leonard, but he did take an extra step on the closeout. The league has tried to crack down on defenders not giving shooters enough room to land, which is what Popovich was referring to.
The Spurs blew a massive lead against Golden State on Sunday, and it’s hard to feel good about their chances now that Leonard is going to miss at least Game 2.
The angry mob came out in full force for Zaza Pachulia on Sunday.
The Golden State Warriors big man disabled comments on his Instagram page Sunday after getting hatred and threats from fans. The fans are upset about a play in which Pachulia appeared to undercut San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard on his troublesome left ankle in Game 1 of their Western Conference Finals series.
Pachulia, who has over 121,000 followers on Instagram, was contesting a Leonard jump shot attempt in the third quarter when Leonard came down on his foot and had to exit the game (video here). The incident greatly altered the trajectory of the game and likely even the series, as San Antonio led by 23 when their star player went out but ultimately fell victim to a furious Golden State comeback and lost by 2.
Leonard himself didn’t think that Pachulia stepped under him intentionally, but the casual fan, especially the one capable of hiding behind a computer or phone screen, is obviously a lot less forgiving.
Kawhi Leonard seems to think that the pitchforks can be put away.
The San Antonio Spurs superstar left Sunday’s Game 1 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the third quarter and did not return after landing on Warriors center Zaza Pachulia’s foot on a jump shot attempt (video here). After the game, Leonard was asked about the play.
“Did he step under it? Like on purpose? No, he was contesting the shot,” said the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, per Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News. “The shot clock was coming down. I’ll have to see the play.”
Judging by the video, Pachulia definitely appeared to take an extra step on the closeout to undercut Leonard on his troublesome left ankle. At the very least though, the referees determined that Pachulia failed to give the jump-shooter enough room to land and whistled him for a common foul on the play.
The Spurs were up 23 points when Leonard exited the game for good with 7:52 left in the third, but the Warriors came all the way back and won by 2, drastically swinging the landscape of the conference final series. Leonard’s comments likely won’t do much to quell the widespread outrage over the play, but at least he doesn’t believe that there was any intent on Pachulia’s part.
San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard left Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals after aggravating an ankle injury.
Leonard appeared to aggravate the injury on a 3-point attempt when Golden State Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia was closing out on him. The Spurs star checked himself out of the game with a visible limp.
Kawhi Leonard is tough as nails. Second sprained ankle in a matter of minutes – pic.twitter.com/Jq0hlZtA4l
— Harrison Wind (@NBAWind) May 14, 2017
The Spurs announced that Leonard would not return to the game.
Kawhi Leonard (sprained left ankle) will not return to today's game.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) May 14, 2017
Leonard twisted his ankle during Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals and had not dealt with any visible issues before the slip in the opener against the Warriors. With Tony Parker already out for the playoffs, it will be a huge concern if Leonard’s injury is serious.
The Golden State Warriors took a commanding 3-0 lead in their second-round series against the Utah Jazz on Saturday despite a poor performance from Klay Thompson, but he didn’t get a free pass from one of his teammates.
After Golden State’s 102-91 victory, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who finished with a modest seven points on the evening, took this funny dig at Thompson, per Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight.
Zaza, as he finishes his press conference: "I finished w more points than Klay did."
— Chris Herring (@Herring_NBA) May 7, 2017
Indeed, Thompson ended up with just six points on Saturday, going 1-of-9 from the field and missing all four of his three-pointers. It’s rare to see such a dud from a player who is relied on so heavily for his scoring, and it was also the perfect trolling opportunity for Pachulia, who has been known to clown his teammates every now and then. Knowing Thompson though, he may very well respond by dropping 40-plus points in Monday’s potential closeout Game 4.