Oracle Arena was silent as the teams entered their locker rooms for half time. The Spurs had somehow reached a 20 point lead over the heavy favorite Golden State.
San Antonio came out in game 1 and absolutely shut down Golden State. The Spurs dominated every aspect of the game. They were shooting, moving the ball as they always do, and simply outworking Golden State.
This series was really the first test that Golden State has faced all year. They have virtually walked through the first two rounds racking up an 8-0 record along the way. The Spurs caught them sleeping, and did it look like it was going south for Golden State.
One moment in the third quarter changed everything, however. San Antonio guard and MVP candidate, Kawhi Leonard, went down as he was undercut by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia.
This type of play has become notorious in the NBA as a very dirty play that can seriously injure players. What it does is take away a firm landing spot for a player shooting jump shot which leads to them twisting their ankle. Leonard, who missed part of game six and all of game seven in the prior series due to an ankle injury, reinjured this same ankle during this play and missed the remainder of the game.
The absence of Leonard shifted everything. The Warriors jumped at the opportunity and would eventually overcome 25 point deficit to steal game one 113-111.
Steph Curry led the way for Golden State with 40 points on seven threes. Despite exiting early, Leonard finished with 26 points and eight rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge had to take over once Leonard exited. He finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
As for the Incident involving Leonard and Pachulia, there is no doubt that this was a dirty play. While Pachulia is not known to be a dirty player, he does not have the best reputation around the league. If not for this injury, there is no doubt that the Spurs would have taken game 1 easily. This single play, however, changed the entire course of the game and allowed the spurs to come back.
The NBA has to take another look at this undercutting play. Personally, I think it should be a flagrant foul because of how dangerous it is.
Regardless, this series will resume tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. on ESPN.