The Spurs blew a 25-point lead and fell to Golden State 113-111 in Game One of the Western Conference Finals.
But all anyone can talk about is an extra step.
Did Warriors Center Zaza Pachulia knowingly make an extra step to slide underneath Kawhi Leonard, thus re-aggravating his sprained ankle?
A foul was whistled on Pachulia because he did not allow Kawhi space to land. Is this a dirty play? Sure, depending on your vantage point. If you are the Spurs it’s dirty, if you are Golden State it’s just a hard playoff foul. This is Zaza Pachulia. It fits his profile as an NBA player. Part of professional sports is exploiting the opposition’s weaknesses and injuries are most certainly a weakness.
As soon as Kawhi Leonard sprained his ankle it became the Spurs issue for the rest of the playoffs. Remember, the NBA season is a marathon, and running through the finish line is as much a battle of attrition as anything else.
Every season championships are dictated by injuries.
Basketball is a game of controlled athleticism. It’s high athleticism in confined spaces, so when you are nursing an injury to your lower extremities you are more susceptible to re-injury.
The margin for error against a great team like Golden State is slim, especially without Leonard.
LaMarcus Aldridge played exceedingly well in the first half and his play in particular was what helped the Spurs build a 25-point lead. But when Kawhi leaves the game, and the Spurs are without their two primary ball handlers, their offense becomes easier to defend.
Aldridge ended up with a team high 28-points, but missed opportunities down the stretch. He was good, but without Kawhi Leonard the Spurs needed him to be great.
Game Two is Tuesday evening. Can the Spurs make this a series? Better question, can Kawhi Leonard overcome the ankle sprain? Answer the second question and you’ll have your answer to the first.
Make sure to watch Ari Temkin of ESPN San Antonio live after every Spurs playoff game on FANTOM, Facebook’s ONLY live sports network.