Spurs: Kawhi officially doubtful for Game 2 of West finals

Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, nursing a sprained left ankle, is officially doubtful for Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, the Spurs announced Monday night. 

Earlier Monday, coach Gregg Popovich told reporters he didn't expect Leonard to play when the Silver and Black meet the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night in Oakland, Calif.

An MRI taken Monday didn't show any sign of structural damage to the ankle, leaving open the possibility Leonard could return to play in the series. 

The Golden State Warriors overcame a 25-point deficit to beat the Silver and Black in the series opener Sunday. Golden State got back in the game with an 18-0 run that started after Leonard reinjured his sprained left ankle in the third quarter.

Leonard left the game with 7:53 left in the period and did not return.

Game 2 is at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

Sunday’s meltdown by the Spurs was not the 27-point loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. It was worse.

At least the Silver and Black’s starting lineup was still healthy after that debacle. And with all due respect to the Rockets, they’re not the Golden State Warriors.

Coming as it did, the Warriors’ two-point win was a kick to the gut.

The paramount question Monday was whether Leonard, who was in obvious pain after turning his tender ankle again, would be able to play in Game 2. 

Given how cautious Popovich is with injuries, no one should have expected to see Leonard play in Game 2. That is, even if there was a decision to be made. The injury still may be bad enough to keep Leonard sidelined for the remainder of the series.

But in a best-case scenario, if doctors give him the OK to return, Leonard could rest the ankle until Game 3, which is Saturday night at the AT&T Center.

For now, at least, the Spurs will have to close ranks and win another playoff game without two starters. They already were playing without veteran point guard Tony Parker, who was lost for the remainder of the postseason after rupturing a left quadriceps tendon in Game 2 of the series against Houston.

The Spurs went through the same situation with Leonard in the series with the Rockets. He sprained the same ankle in the Silver and Black’s overtime victory against Houston in Game 5, missing the second half of the fourth quarter and all of the extra period. Leonard also sat out the series-clinching 39-point win two nights later in Houston.

Leonard came back strong in Game 1 of the West finals, finishing with 26 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes.

When the Warriors rallied from a 25-point deficit Sunday to push their postseason record this spring to 9-0, they demonstrated again why no big lead is safe against them.

Heavy underdogs going into the series opener of the conference finals, the Silver and Black had their way with the Warriors for two and a half quarters.

Then it happened.

With the Spurs up 76-55, Leonard reinjured his ankle while shooting a jumper from the corner. TV replays showed Warriors center Zaza Pachulia stepping on Leonard’s left foot as he contested the shot near the Spurs’ bench.

Pachulia was whistled for a foul on the play. Leonard said later he didn’t think Pachulia was intentionally trying to injure him.

Leonard made both free throws to give the Spurs a 78-55 lead and left the game for good when Spurs guard Danny Green was called for a foul on the Warriors’ next possession.

Leonard went to the team’s locker room with team athletic trainer Will Sevening. The Silver and Black’s chances of winning the series against the Warriors went with him.

Popovich went off on Pachulia on Monday morning, criticizing him for "a totally unnatural closeout" when he contested Leonard's shot. 

"A two-step, lead-with-your-foot closeout is not appropriate," Popovich told reporters. "It's dangerous. It's unsportsmanlike."

© 2017 KENS-TV


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