Spurs must play Warriors without star player

The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has 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.

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. “It happened to me as well. When you play this kind of physical game, intense game, things happen. My approach to this game for the 14 years I’ve been in this league is to play hard and give 100 percent of whatever I have. I don’t agree with the calls that I’m a dirty player. I’m not a dirty player. I just love this game and I’m playing hard. That’s how I was taught since Day 1, honestly.”

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