OAKLAND -- Despite the guilty verdict issued by many social-media judges, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia proclaimed innocence for his part in a play Sunday that forced Spurs star Kawhi Leonard out of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
With 7:55 left in the third quarter, Pachulia switched out to defend Leonard who launched a 3-point shot from in front of the San Antonio bench. Pachulia continued moving forward while Leonard was airborne, an action that resulted in Leonard landing on Pachulia’s left foot and aggravating a sprained left ankle.
“I just did what I was supposed to do and challenged his shot,” Pachulia said. “And I turned around and there was a call. I didn’t notice that he was down until I turned back. I didn’t see what happened there.”
Referee Marc Davis whistled a foul on Pachulia. Leonard made a pair of free throws, after which he left the game for good.
There was immediate and incessant reaction on social media, where Spurs fans and others blamed Pachulia for purposely trying to injury Leonard.
Asked if it was intentional, Leonard said he didn’t think so.
“He was contesting a shot,” he said. “The shot clock was coming down and . . . I’ll have to see the play.”
Pachulia had harsh words for those who believed he was trying to hurt Leonard.
“That’s really stupid,” he said.
“I don’t think I should be making (any) comment,” he added. “I’m not that good to be doing intentional stuff like that. I did my part. I had to challenge the shot. It was a handoff situation and I saw that my teammate was behind the screen. I had to challenge the shot. That’s what I did. And I turned around for the rebound and that was it.
“I hate anybody going down like that with an injury. I’m an athlete, too, so I know how it feels. I wish it’s nothing serious for him because we are colleagues at the end of the day. So we’re going to move on.”