Kevin Durant Defends Zaza Pachulia After Fall on Russell Westbrook: He's Clumsy

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2018

FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2016, file photo, Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant hugs Zaza Pachulia after the team's NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee. With all that was made before the season about adding Kevin Durant to an already star-studded roster, Golden State's players have jelled just fine. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash, File)
Aaron Gash/Associated Press

Count Kevin Durant among those who don't think Golden State Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia was attempting to hurt Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook during Saturday's game.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic shared a video in which Durant said, "I don't think Zaza is trying to hurt anybody. He is clumsy":

Durant mentioned he watched the tape and pointed to Pachulia's leg getting caught up with Nick Young's on the play. He added, "I'm glad Russ didn't get hurt."

The play in question happened in the third quarter of Golden State's 112-80 victory. Westbrook attacked the rim and missed a shot, falling to the floor alongside Young. Pachulia was standing upright when Westbrook and Young were down but ultimately ended up falling on the Thunder guard's legs in a manner that could have injured the defending MVP.

For his part, Westbrook didn't think there was any doubt Pachulia was attempting to hurt him.

"Nobody touched me. He fell over my leg," Westbrook said, per Mark Medina of the Mercury News. "He tried to hurt me. But hey, that's how it goes."

Westbrook also said "for sure" when asked if he thinks the Warriors big man is a dirty player.

Pachulia called Westbrook's accusations "childish," per Medina.

Westbrook's teammate, Paul George, had his back in the back-and-forth, per Medina: "You know Zaza. You know his history. You know nobody pushed him. He aimed where he was going to fall. That's Zaza making a Zaza play. He's on the end of hurting a lot of guys."

One of the infamous moments in Pachulia's history came in last season's Western Conference Finals when he crowded San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard on a jumper. Leonard landed on Pachulia's foot and suffered a series-ending injury. The Spurs, who were in control of Game 1 when the injury happened, went on to lose the game and were swept 4-0.

"A two-step lead-with-your-foot closeout is not appropriate," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said of the play at the time, per Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. "It's dangerous, it's unsportsmanlike, it's just not what anybody does to anybody else. And this particular individual (Pachulia) has a history with that kind of action."

This figures to serve as another Thunder-Warriors rivalry storyline, something Durant is intimately familiar with since he started his career on Oklahoma City only to sign with Golden State and win the title last season.

The two teams face each other on April 3 and could play in a postseason series.

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