OAKLAND, Calif. — Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook accused Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia of intentionally trying to hurt him when Pachulia landed on his leg late in the third quarter of the Warriors’ 112-80 win Saturday night.
Westbrook drove to the basket and shot a contested floater over Nick Young, with Pachulia trailing the play. The ball hit the front of the rim, and Westbrook and Young jumped for the rebound, clashing with each other before collapsing to the hardwood.
After a slow start marred by poor shooting, the Warriors broke open a close game against the Thunder for a statement win.
Pachulia, standing nearby, somehow fell to the ground and landed on Westbrook’s left leg. Pachulia then got up to join his team on offense. Upon impact, Westbrook immediately reached for his knee and began shaking his head in disbelief.
When reporters attempted to ask Westbrook afterward if he thought the incident was intentional, he had a feisty back-and-forth exchange.
Westbrook: “What do you mean what happened? What’d you think what happened? Don’t lie, don’t lie, you saw the instant replay four times. What happened?”
Reporter: “He fell on your leg”
Westbrook: “Thank you. Don’t ask me a dumb question you know the answer to.”
Reporter: “Did you see it?”
Westbrook: “What did it look like? What it look like? Anybody touch him? Yes or no?”
Reporter: “I didn’t see the replay.”
Westbrook: “Oh, you didn’t see it? But why you asking about something you didn’t see? Well then if you didn’t see it, don’t ask me a question. Don’t ask me dumb questions, man. Obviously, it was intentional. So don’t ask me if it was intentional. Nobody touched him, he fell on my leg, tried to hurt me. But hey, that’s how it goes.”
On if the NBA needs to address it, Westbrook said, “Hey man, they’ll see it and look at it, you know what I’m saying? They’ll see it.”
Asked if Pachulia is a dirty player, he said, “Yeah, for sure. For sure.”
Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving even weighed in on Instagram, posting: “The league has to take a look at this, man. This s— is ridiculous.”
“You know Zaza,” Thunder forward Paul George said. “You know his history. You know nobody pushed him. He aimed where he was gonna fall. That’s Zaza making a Zaza play. He’s on the end of hurting a lot of guys.”
When ESPN approached Pachulia about Westbrook’s accusation, he said, “No comment. That’s childish. Come on. I’m not responding to that.”
Westbrook appeared to be very heated about the incident after the game, privately showing other players and staffers video of the play.
The two players have a little history dating back to last season.
During a January 2017 game against the Warriors, Westbrook used an Enes Kanter screen and attempted to turn the corner, but Pachulia stepped up and rammed his body into Westbrook, sending him to the floor. Pachulia then stood over Westbrook for a few seconds while staring him down. Pachulia received a flagrant 1 foul.
“He hit me kind of hard, but it’s all right,” Westbrook said at the time. “I’m going to get his ass back. Straight up. … I’m going to get his ass back. Whenever that is, I don’t know when it’s going to be, but I don’t play that game.”
Pachulia has dealt with similar controversy with other players.
In Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs, Kawhi Leonard suffered a left ankle injury after Pachulia slid under his foot on the jump shot. The injury kept him out the remainder of the postseason as the Warriors swept the series.
The incident caused an angry Gregg Popovich to unleash his fury at Pachulia in a postgame interview.
“Who gives a damn what his intent was?” Popovich said then. “Have you ever heard of manslaughter? You still go to jail, I think, when you’re texting and you end up killing somebody, but may have not intended to do that. All I care is what I saw. All I care about is what happened. And the history there exasperates the whole situation and makes me very, very angry.”
Pachulia, who came off the bench for the second straight game and supplied 4 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block in 19 minutes Saturday night, had at least one person paying him a compliment.
“He just did a good job of being physical, staying in the game, boxing out and being in the right place,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “The same things he’s been doing for two years for us, he did tonight.”