So much attention has been paid to the way NBA players close out on shooters in recent days. This stems from the play in which Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia slid his foot under Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of their Western Conference Finals showdown. Leonard came down on Pachulia’s foot, rolled his ankle and missed the rest of the game. He also did not suit up for Game 2, which the Warriors won, 136-100.
It was a hugely controversial play, one which almost certainly swung Game 1 and potentially tipped the balance of the entire series. Leonard is far and away the most important player on the Spurs, so for him to miss any time is a massive blow to San Antonio.
Golden State doesn’t have one particular player like this, so if the Spurs wanted to retaliate in some way, they’d have to decide on which Warriors player to target. Based on this play, it looks like LaMarcus Aldridge may have gone after Kevin Durant in a similar fashion.
This looks really bad for Aldridge. His foot may have just slipped, but it seems like he intentionally slid his foot under Durant’s legs while he was coming down after a jumper. At best, this was Aldridge’s foot slipping. At worst, this was Aldridge trying to take Durant out in the exact same way that the Warriors took Leonard out.
Durant, to his credit, thought that this wasn’t an example of Aldridge trying to be dirty. During his postgame press conference, the Warriors’ star said that this was just something that happens when big men try to guard guys on the perimeter, where they’re not especially comfortable.
Sure, this doesn’t look great, but we’ll take Durant’s word on this being unintentional.