Two games into the Western Conference Finals, the San Antonio Spurs trail the Golden State Warriors 2-0.
Game one of this matchup started out great for the Spurs. The silver and black played tremendous defense, took advantage of Warriors’ turnovers, and found themselves leading by as many as 25 points. That is, until Kawhi Leonard rolled his injured left ankle twice in the span of a few minutes in the third quarter.
The second time Leonard went down was the subject of endless criticism since the event occurred Sunday afternoon. Leonard, coming down from a long-range jump-shot attempt, landed on the foot of Zaza Pachulia who scooted in under Leonard mid shot. The move by Pachulia gained widespread criticism as it happened with many believing the move that drastically altered the outcome of the game was intentional.
“Plenty of time to stop where he did, but he continued moving in that direction of Kawhi,” Bruce Bowen told Bleacher Report. “That seems like it’s intentional and it’s definitely dangerous.”
Similarly, in a heated moment with the press, Gregg Popovich called the move “unsportsmanlike” and listed other occurrences in which Pachulia endangered other players.
Although the Spurs shot 47.6% from the field, they went on to lose the game 113-111.
Diagnosed with a left ankle sprain, Kawhi was unable to play in game two. Leonard’s absence made it hard for the rest of the Spurs to get into a rhythm.
“It’s not what I expected,” said coach Popovich following the 136-100 loss Tuesday night. “I don’t think they believed, and you have to believe.”
Coach Popovich went on expressing his disappointment in his team stating they need to “get slapped” for their lack of effort and feeling “sorry for ourselves.”
Led by Jonathon Simmons’ 22 points, the Spurs shot 37% from the field. Other than Simmons, the only Spur in double figures, Davis Bertans, scored 13. Not only did the Spurs perform poorly on offense due to either great Warriors’ defense or as Popovich stated lack of effort, they also failed to play their top-notch defense allowing Golden State to shoot 56.2% from the field.
“Game 3, I expect to see a different team,” coach Popovich said in the post-game press conference. A different Spurs team Saturday might show up at 8 as they face the Warriors for game 3 in San Antonio.