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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 1:00 am

NBA playoffs

Leonard out for Game 2; Spurs coach blasts play

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SAN FRANCISCO – Spurs coach Gregg Popovich ruled Kawhi Leonard out for Game 2 of the Western Conference finals with a sprained left ankle caused by what Popovich described as a “dangerous” and “unsportsmanlike” closeout by Golden State's Zaza Pachulia.

Leonard had an MRI on Monday and Popovich had no timetable on when he'd be able to return to action.

“We'll see what the MRI says, but obviously he won't play tomorrow,” Popovich said.

Leonard left Game 1 on Sunday after re-injuring his tender left ankle in the third quarter when Pachulia's foot slid under Leonard's following a jumper by the All-Star forward.

The play happened in front of the Spurs bench and Popovich was angry at the time and even more upset a day after San Antonio's 113-111 loss to the Warriors.

“A two-step, lead-with-your-foot closeout is not appropriate,” he said. “It's dangerous, it's unsportsmanlike. It's just not what anybody does to anybody else. And this particular individual has a history with that kind of action.”

Popovich pointed to a history of borderline plays by Pachulia during his time with Dallas against the Spurs, including a flagrant foul against Patty Mills, a play where he locked arms with Mills in a way that “could have broken his arm,” according to Popovich, and run-ins with David West, who now plays for the Warriors.

“Because he has this history, it can't just be, 'oh, it was inadvertent,' “ Popovich said. “Who gives a damn about what his intent was? You ever heard of manslaughter? You still go to jail, I think, when you're texting and you end up killing someone. All I care is what I saw. All I care about is what happened. And the history there exacerbates the whole situation and makes me very, very angry. Nobody wants to do anything that would put anyone else in danger for a game or a career. This guy's history is different.”

Pachulia said he simply challenged the shot like he was taught and felt bad that the play ended with Leonard getting hurt.

“This is the game of basketball, a lot of crazy stuff happens on the court, unfortunately,” he said.

Popovich hasn't reached out to league officials regarding the play seeking punishment for Pachulia, nor does he plan to. At this point, Popovich said, the NBA has already seen the play. His sole concern is Leonard's absence.

“I don't care what the league does,” he said. “I'm just telling you how I feel. The league is the league. They do what they do. I could care less.”

Leonard didn't return, giving Golden State an opening for an 18-0 run that keyed the comeback win. The Spurs were outscored 58-33 after Leonard left the game as they could not survive without their best offensive and defensive player.