Mark Jackson has never shied away from throwing subtle jabs at the Warriors, and the former Dubs coach turned ESPN broadcaster weighed in again Wednesday during Golden State’s 116-100 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
With the Warriors trailing 82-73 midway through the third quarter at TD Garden, Steph Curry was fouled while making a 3-pointer, giving the Warriors a 4-point play.
The foul was upgraded to a flagrant after it was determined that Celtics big man Al Horford did not give Curry adequate space to land, which gave the Warriors an additional possession where Otto Porter Jr. nailed a 3-pointer to cap a wild seven-point possession.
In showing replays of the play where Curry landed directly on Horford’s foot, lead play-by-play man Mike Breen said that “that could’ve been a bad ankle turn.”
However, Jackson took the time to shade the Warriors over Kawhi Leonard’s injury on a similar closeout from Zaza Pachulia during Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals.
“Well, they benefited from a play like that. They won a championship because of a play like that, with all due respect,” Jackson said.
The play Jackson is referring to occurred when Leonard landed on Pachulia’s foot as the Warriors big man attempted to close out on a corner 3-pointer. The San Antonio Spurs were up by 21 points early in the third quarter at the time of the injury, but the Warriors stormed back to win the game and then swept the Leonard-less Spurs en route to winning the championship.
Many people blamed Pachulia for Leonard’s injury, and the NBA has since deemed such “landing space” fouls as flagrant fouls to try and protect the shooters.
"Basically every 3-point shot is challenged. For that reason, there is always a possibility for that awkward landing to happen,” Pachulia told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Grant Liffmann in 2020 about the incident. “Like I said, it happened before so many times and it happened after my incident, so many times. I think we should talk about 'Why that exact moment?' was such a huge deal. Why everybody was talking about it."
But Pachulia doesn’t believe the injury would have changed the outcome of the series.
“So, of course there is the unanswered question of 'What if that moment didn't happen?'” Pachulia continued.
“The result could have been different. Maybe we would've seen the Spurs-Cavs in the Finals. I still believe that even though if that incident didn't happen, and we lost Game 1, I still believe 100 percent that we would still come back and win that series. Maybe 4-1, maybe 4-2 or 4-3, who cares? We would have won. I believe we would have won the championship again that year. But this is a question that we would not have to answer."
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The 2017 Warriors went 16-1 in the playoffs, absolutely dominating the competition throughout their run and are considered one of the greatest teams of all time. It’s possible -- albeit unlikely -- that the Spurs would have won Game 1 had Leonard not been injured, but most NBA fans and experts agree that the Warriors still would have won the series had Leonard been healthy.
But as Pachulia mentioned, we'll never truly know -- even if Jackson clearly thinks otherwise.