Gregg Popovich criticized the defensive play by Zaza Pachulia on Kawhi Leonard when he stepped into his landing space following a jump shot. Leonard aggravated his ankle injury and left the game after the play.
"Two step, lead with your foot closeout, is not appropriate. It’s dangerous, it’s unsportsmanlike, it’s just not what anybody does to anybody else," said Popovich.
"This particular individual has a history of that kind of action. You can go back and look at Dallas games for elbowing Patty Mills. The play where he took Kawhi down and locked his arm in Dallas, and could’ve broken his arm. Ask David West, his current teammate, how things went when Zaza was playing for Dallas, and he and David got into it.
"And then think about the history he’s had, and what that means to a team, when it happens last night. Totally unnatural closeout that the league has outlawed years ago and pays great attention to, and Kawhi’s not there.
"And you want to know how we feel about it? You want to know if it lessens our chances or not? We’re playing very possibly the best team in the league. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the East. And 9.75 people out of 10 will figure the Warriors will beat the Spurs. Well, we’ve had a pretty damn good seasons, we’ve played fairly well in the playoffs, and I think we’re getting better. We’re up 23 points in the third quarter 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."
Pachulia has contended he meant no harm by the dangerous play.
"Who gives a damn about what his intent was. You ever heard of manslaughter? You still go to jail, I think, when you’re texting and you kill someone. All I care is all I saw. All I care about is what happened. And the history there exacerbates the whole situation and makes me very angry."
Longtime Spurs' player Bruce Bowen was defended by Popovich in the past for similar actions.
“The league is just trying to cover its ass,” Popovich said at the time. “I told Bruce, ‘You be Bruce Bowen. You’re the best (expletive) defender in this league. You will NOT change the way you play defense.’
“Stu Jackson is not going to change my team just because he thinks he’s doing the right thing.”