All it took was for one play by Zaza Pachulia to change the outcome Game 1 of the Golden State Warriors' showdown with the San Antonio Spurs.
And then. Kawhi Leonard landed awkwardly on the foot of Zaza Pachulia while shooting a baseline jumper, reinjuring the ankle that kept him out of San Antonio's Game 6 win over Houston.
Rallying from a 20-point halftime deficit, the third-biggest comeback in National Basketball Association playoff history, the Warriors got a game-high 40 points from Stephen Curry and 34 from Kevin Durant. He added that Pachulia is not a dirty player and he would have had to time it perfectly if he wanted to injure Leonard on objective.
"The two-step lead with your foot closeout is not appropriate", Popovich said to reporters Monday. Golden State showed just why they are so unsafe - they can win by playing a attractive brand of team basketball, or simply by putting the ball in the hands of their two best players.
"This particular individual has a history with that kind of action", Popovich said.
Popovich was asked whether he thought Pachulia meant to injure Leonard.
"Who gives a damn what [Zaza's] intent was?" You ever hear of manslaughter? It was a handoff situation and I saw that my teammate was behind the screen. All I care about is what happened. If the Spurs are at full strength, the match-up has all the earmarks for a classic playoff battle in the Western Conference Finals.More news: 'Witness Intimidation': Trump May Have Crossed Legal Lines With Comey Tweet
"We have no intention of letting our guard down", said Warriors big man David West, who played for the Spurs last season.
Gregg Popovich did not hold back when discussing the controversial play.
The Wizards pushed the series to a game seven, which is sure to be an exciting and intense game, to say the least. I definitely couldn't go (the rest of Sunday's game).
Just under eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, Kawhi Leonard went down after landing (courtesy of ESPN) on Zaza Pachulia's foot and reaggravated his ankle injury. "With the team that we have, the veteran guys, their composure, and then the firepower, we know that we're always going to have a chance".
Things would be better if Leonard played. You want to know if that lessons our chances or not. So I don't agree with the calls that I'm a dirty player. Leonard also has no defensive peer in the league, hence his nickname "the Claw". You go back and watch the film, they're both identical: "two guys shooting the ball, two big guys going out to contest, they slide under the shooter a little bit - neither one I think on objective - and one happens to land on one's foot and the other one doesn't".
For now, there's no official report from the Spurs medical team on the extent of Leonard's injury. "I'll get back healthy". "The playoffs for us have been rough". No Tony, no Kawhi as of right now. "We'll figure it out".
Things didn't get any better for Golden State as the second quarter began, San Antonio going on a 14-3 run to take a 44-19 lead.