Patty Mills believes that if Kawhi Leonard wasn’t injured by Zaza Pachulia, the Spurs would’ve beaten Golden State in 2017.
The San Antonio Spurs were one of the best teams in the league in 2017 – easily the second-best after the Warriors. Cleveland had LeBron and Kyrie, but the Spurs had an actual, working offensive system.
The Spurs were also blessed with the best two-way player in NBA basketball for the past 6 years in Kawhi Leonard. If you needed a bucket, or if you needed a stop at any point in the game, Kawhi was that guy. He still is that guy, but he was even more sensational before injuries.
Mills was on the JJ Redick Podcast yesterday. The former Spurs veteran stated outright that this Kawhi ankle sprain was the biggest what-if of his NBA career thus far.
We take a short look back at how Kawhi was terrorizing Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and co.
Kawhi Leonard was indeed tearing the Golden State Warriors apart
Kawhi Leonard was running a bulldozer over the Warriors all by himself in Game 1 of the 2017 WCF. The Spurs were up big before Leonard went down with an ankle injury because of Pachulia sliding his foot underneath Kawhi on a jump shot.
Easy. Zaza Pachulia not injuring Kawhi Leonard, causing the Spurs to lose the series. https://t.co/u2vtPth8v3
— chris (@christav__) September 23, 2021
This Zaza Pachulia infamous play created one of the biggest “what ifs”. Leading by as much 25 points, Spurs were up by 21 in the third quarter. Leonard had 26 points and 8 rebounds already.
Zaza being Zaza, made a dirty play and slid under Kawhi’s leg, he landed pretty bad and immediately knew he couldn’t move. Everyone in both the camps knew the series was over if Leonard had aggravated his injury.
The first thing that you are reminded of when watching it again is that a limping Leonard actually took and made the foul shots giving Spurs 78-55 lead. But that was it for him he couldn’t move on the court and the play had to be stopped with an intentional foul.
Kawhi moved on from Spurs in 2018-19 season, for a short stint in Toronto. In a season where he managed his injury well and limited his game time, Toronto reached Finals somehow and Leonard had to face the Warriors again.