Zaza Pachulia May Have Tried to Intentionally Injure Kawhi Leonard in Game 1

Zaza Pachulia slid into the landing zone of Kawhi Leonard, and a lot of fans think the Warriors' center tried to intentionally injure him.

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The Warriors have a huge talent advantage over basically every other team in the NBA, including their opponent and the Western Conference Finals, the San Antonio Spurs. That tends to happen when you have a 73-win squad and then add Kevin Durant in free agency.

So they probably shouldn't have to resort to goon tactics to edge out a win in Game 1—or any other game—of a playoff series. But judging by the video you see up top, it looks like Warriors center Zaza Pachulia takes an extra hop in order to crowd Kawhi Leonard's landing zone, a move that has long been derided as a dirty play in the basketball community. It was made even worse by the fact that Leonard had tweaked the same ankle just a few minutes beforehand, which makes it look like Pachulia targeted Leonard.

People were not happy to see Leonard go down at all, and the nature of the injury made it a lot worse. Pachulia quickly became public enemy No. 1 of the Twitter-verse, and the outcry only got louder after the Warriors immediately went on an 18-0 run once Leonard hit the bench:

NBA exec texted me on #Zaza: "That was awful. It was with intent and it was absolutely dirty." #spurs #warriors #kawhileonard

— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) May 14, 2017

The more I watch that ZaZa play on Kawhi the more it annoys me. Don't like the extra lunge to land under Kawhi's feet.

— David Pollack (@davidpollack47) May 14, 2017

Draymond going to call Zaza dirty for running under Kawhi and setting illegal screens?

— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) May 14, 2017

Zaza dirty player. Intentionally took an extra step under Kawhi. Replay proves it.

— Kyle Leith (@KyleLeith) May 14, 2017

happy mother's day to everyone except zaza pachulia

— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) May 14, 2017

There's no convincing me Zaza Pachulia wasn't trying to injure Kawhi Leonard. Dirty play.

— Dan Molloy (@DanMolloyTV) May 14, 2017

Spurs fans mad about Zaza but love Bruce Bowen don't speak to me or anyone actually

— Shohei Ohtani Stan Account (@AndyKHLiu) May 14, 2017

As of this morning, sliding under a guy to take out an ankle was known as the Bruce Bowen move. Imagine it’ll be more popularly the Zaza now

— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) May 14, 2017

The outrage wasn't limited to fans following along at home. NBA TV's Sam Mitchell discussed the play after the game, and he thought the intent was clear.

"That is just a dirty, dirty play," said Mitchell. "And there's no room for it in the game."

For Spurs fans who once rooted for Bruce Bowen—notorious for pulling moves like the one from Pachulia—there was a bit of hypocrisy in the outrage at the play that injured Leonard. Neutral observers (and Warriors fans!) were happy to point out the disconnect:

Intent is the hardest thing for fans, coaches, and players to judge, even with the benefit of replay. Pachulia is never going to admit he intentionally tried to injure another player, and in all likelihood this play will eventually get buried in the footnotes of Golden State's eventual 2017 championship yearbook. But that doesn't make the play any less suspicious, or make up for the fact that Leonard may not be able to go for the rest of the series. 

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