Basketball: Popovich irate at losing Leonard

Kawhi Leonard handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors. Photo / Getty Images
Kawhi Leonard handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors. Photo / Getty Images

San Antonio star forward Kawhi Leonard will miss Wednesday's Game 2 of the Western Conference finals at the Golden State Warriors, leaving Spurs coach Gregg Popovich irate over what he felt was an avoidable injury.

Popovich lashed out at Warriors centre Zaza Pachulia for his defence on Leonard, telling reporters Tuesday that the play was "dangerous" and "unsportsmanlike" and citing a past pattern of such play by Pachulia.

Leonard aggravated his left ankle injury on Monday in Game 1 of the best-of- seven series when he landed on Pachulia's foot after taking a jump shot early in the third quarter.

San Antonio held a 23-point lead at the time of the injury but couldn't hold of a furious comeback without its best player and dropped a 113-111 decision.

"Lead with your foot close-out is not appropriate. It's dangerous, it's unsportsmanlike, it's just not what anybody does to anybody else," Popovich fumed.

"And this particular individual has a history with that kind of action... A totally unnatural close-out that the league has outlawed years ago and pays great attention to it.

"We've had a pretty damn good season. We've played fairly well in the playoffs ... and we're up 23 points in the third quarter against Golden State, 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."

Leonard injured the same ankle in Game 5 of the Western semi-finals on Wednesday and sat out Game 6 against the Houston Rockets on Friday.

He had 26 points and eight rebounds in just 24 minutes of action.

The All-Star small forward scored a game-high 18 points in the first half as the Spurs stunned the top-seeded Warriors with a 62-42 start.

But Leonard tweaked the ankle when he stepped back into the Spurs' bench while attempting a three-pointer early in the third period. Then after a brief stint on the bench, he returned and landed on Pachulia's foot on a jumper, which sent Leonard limping to the bench for good.

The Spurs were leading 78-55 when Leonard left the game with 7:54 remaining in the third quarter. Golden State immediately responded with an 18-0 run to get back into the game.

Popovich said if Leonard remained in the game and San Antonio lost, he would go to practice the next day and "move on. But this is crap.

"And because he's has got this history, it can't be, 'Oh this was inadvertent, he didn't have intent,' " Popovich said of Pachulia.

"Who gives a damn what his intent was? Have you ever heard of manslaughter? You still go to jail I think when you're texting and you end up killing somebody but may have not intended to do that. All I care is what I saw, all I care about is what happened.

"And the history there exasperates the whole situation and makes me very, very angry."

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