The Thunder were routed by the Warriors, but Russell Westbrook is furious with Zaza Pachulia
Russell Westbrook is helped up during Golden State’s 112-80 blowout of the Thunder on Saturday night in Oakland. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
OAKLAND, Calif. – The Oklahoma City Thunder got its doors blown off Saturday night, losing 112-80 to the Golden State Warriors, but Russell Westbrook wasn’t mad about that.
What Westbrook was mad about, however, was his latest run-in with Zaza Pachulia, who awkwardly fell onto Westbrook’s legs late in the third quarter of Golden State’s blowout victory.
“Obviously it was intentional,” Westbrook said, though only after berating reporters for a minute or so for how they phrased their initial question about the incident.
“Nobody touched him. He fell on my leg, tried to hurt me. But hey, that’s how it goes.”
When asked if the NBA should address the incident, Westbrook didn’t hesitate: “Hey man, they’ll see it and look at it, you know what I’m saying? They’ll see it.”
He didn’t hesitate when asked if Pachulia is a dirty player, either: “Yeah, for sure. For sure.”
Russell Westbrook on Zaza Pachulia falling on him, and asked if he’s a dirty player: “Yeah. For sure.” pic.twitter.com/w9ZH0AwVP1
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) February 25, 2018
When Pachulia was asked about Westbrook’s comments after the game, he didn’t have much to say:
Zaza Pachulia on Russell Westbrook’s claim that he intentionally tried to hurt him: “No comment. That’s childish. Come on. I’m not responding to that.”
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) February 25, 2018
All of this originated from a Westbrook drive to the basket with the Thunder trailing 75-66 with 2:21 to go in the third quarter. On the play, Westbrook tried to drive past Warriors guard Nick Young, but missed a runner on the left side of the lane. He then tried to jump and contest the rebound with Young, sending them both tumbling to the floor.
That’s when Pachulia, who had been trailing the play, entered the picture. And while it looked like he may have gotten hit in the back of the leg, he didn’t do anything for a moment before then awkwardly falling across Westbrook’s legs.
Westbrook then spent the ensuing defensive possession sitting on the floor, before eventually getting up after the Thunder were called for a foul and slowly walking – with a limp – all the way back to the other end of the floor.
He wasn’t asked after the game how he was feeling, though Thunder Coach Billy Donovan said he thought Westbrook was fine and he didn’t appear to have any issues navigating his way around the locker room.
Westbrook did, of course, have issues with the way Pachulia acted – and he wasn’t alone.
On an Instagram post that asked, “How did Zaza trip and fall directly on Westbrook’s leg?” Celtics guard Kyrie Irving commented, “The league has to take a look at this man, that s— is ridiculous!”
Paul George, Oklahoma City’s other all-star this season, agreed.
“Did you see it?” George asked. “You know Zaza. 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.”
This was far from the first time that Pachulia had gotten tangled up with Westbrook – let alone an opposing player. One enterprising Twitter user found several examples of Pachulia getting into it with opposing players:
A thread of Zaza Pachulia playing dirty and attempting to injure opposing teams players: pic.twitter.com/wYL49D9n6I
— mf DOOM in CAPS (@GAMEWINING3) February 25, 2018
The most noteworthy example of this was when Pachulia got caught up under the feet of San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard during Game 1 of last season’s Western Conference finals. At the time, the Spurs were winning by 21 early in the third quarter. They wound up losing the game, and being swept in the series.
But Pachulia also got into it with Westbrook last season here at Oracle Arena, leveling him with a screen and then standing over him during a 121-100 Warriors victory in January of 2017. Pachulia earned a flagrant foul on the play, and the two men went back-and-forth in the media afterward.
Given Pachulia’s history – both overall and with Westbrook – it seems likely the league will take up Westbrook’s request and take a close look at Saturday’s incident. Golden State’s next game is Monday in New York.
The final meeting of the year between the Warriors and Thunders will come in Oklahoma City on April 3, in yet another nationally televised game (this time on TNT).
As long as Pachulia is playing for the Warriors and Westbrook is playing for the Thunder, this is a rivalry that won’t need any extra spice. But Saturday night’s run-in between Pachulia and Westbrook ensured that game in April will have just that.