I'll be honest, I never thought much of Zaza Pachulia, and I don't mean that as if I thought poorly of him or somehow thought of myself as "better" than he is. I mean that I LITERALLY spent very little free time thinking of him. To me, Zaza Pachulia was just your garden variety, seven-foot tall space eating center with a funny non-American name.
To be honest, I had no idea just how hated Pachulia was around the NBA until his little stunt on Sunday afternoon against Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs.
To reset exactly what happened, in the third quarter of Sunday's Game 1 of the NBA's Western Conference Finals, with the Spurs up 21 points, Pachulia closed out on a Leonard jump shot in questionable fashion, inserting his body into Leonard's personal space enough for Leonard to land on Pachulia's foot and twist Leonard's left ankle. It was especially questionable on Pachulia's part considering that Leonard had just twisted the same ankle moments before, and it was the same ankle that he twisted in Game 5 of the Spurs' series against the Rockets (forcing him to miss Game 6).
It was a very deliberate act to take out the Spurs' best player, and try to jump start a Warriors' comeback. Here is the video....
Well, the Warriors DID come back in this game, using a barrage of three point bombs from Steph Curry and Kevin Durant to eventually eke out a 103-101 win. It was a crushing blow to a Spurs team already operating without their starting point guard, Tony Parker, and now with their MVP candidate Leonard out for Game 2, and questionable beyond that, not to mention a razor thin margin for error even when they're fully healthy against the league's best team, Golden State.
Thankfully, for those of us in the content generation business, Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich did not take Pachulia's peccadilloes lightly. No, instead, he lit into the Warriors' seven foot Frankenstein during a media session Monday, bringing up Pachulia's "dirty play rap sheet" in the process. This is pretty glorious...
Admittedly, not being a Spurs fan, I didn't recall all of those specific times Pachulia tried to maim or cripple one of Pop's players, so I took to the internet. God bless, YouTube! In the search box, I inserted "Zaza Pachulia," and the automatic pull down menu offered up "zaza pachulia dirty plays" as the first choice. The internet is self aware! Here's the first video that came up....
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Holy crap, Zaza! Someone must have done a number on you as a kid!
The Warriors entered the conference finals as a -275 favorite to win the NBA title this postseason, the heaviest favorite at this stage in the history of the league. So I must say "Thank you, Zaza and Pop!" from this Houston basketball fan whose soul was hollowed and crushed by James Harden's Game 6 performance last Thursday. Thank you for giving me a reason to watch the conference finals again. Here's to the Spurs' eventual retaliation against Dirty Zaza, who is most certainly not just another pretty face.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.