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Stiffs Shoot-around: Zaza “Tonya Harding” Pachulia

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Did Pachulia commit a dirty play? How many points will KD score?

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors - Game One Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

For the rest of the NBA playoffs, the Stiffs will be making game threads for the nightly games so that Stiffs readers have a place to hang out and watch with like-minded fans. Sign up for an account and join the rest of the Stiffs to talk about tonight’s games.

Tonight, there is one game, and also, one lottery. The Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs tip off at 7:00 PM MT, one hour AFTER the draft lottery will take place (6:00 PM MT). You can play the lottery on your own as well, just to see how rare it is for the Denver Nuggets to move up to a top 3 pick.

Is Zaza Pachulia guilty of dirty play by playing a role in Kawhi Leonard’s injury?

Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): No. Zaza was contesting the shot after a switch, was watching the ball fly over his head, stumbled, and then Leonard landed on his foot. It was a dirty play if he was playing pickup basketball, because no one should play defense like that in pickup, but in a NBA playoff game? Spare me your lamentations.

Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares): There isn’t a doubt in my mind that he was deliberately running into Kawhi’s landing zone. I doubt he meant to injure him but he was deliberately reckless. That isn’t how you close out to contest a shot, that’s how you close out to intimidate and I honestly don’t see how anyone that has played the game of basketball would confuse the two (looking at you, Daniel). That being said, lots of NBA players do these types of reckless closeouts and Zaza just happened to be involved in this very high-profile example that ruined the conference finals.

Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): It was intentional. He was trying to interfere with the landing and succeeded. He might have succeeded more spectacularly than he intended, but he was attempting to put the thought of a precarious landing in Kawhi’s head with the known risk of injuring Kawhi. It’s dirty. It happens more than I’d like, but that doesn’t excuse Zaza in this instance.

Ashley Douglas (@AshleyNBAHoops): I also believe it was intentional, but I don’t necessarily believe he intended to hurt Leonard. Regardless of the intent, it was irresponsible, and he needs be held accountable for clearly violating an NBA rule. I can appreciate the need for an increased level of defensive intensity since we’re talking about the conference finals here, but his dirty style of play is a problem—it has been for some time. If/when the Warriors win this series, they will never be able to live down the inevitable taunting that will come from those saying the Warriors wouldn’t have won if Leonard was healthy. In my opinion that criticism will be deserved.

Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): Dirty might not be the right word for it, I’d describe it as reckless. You can follow his eyes, he’s not looking where to place his foot so Kawhi lands on it, but he does take that extra space into Kawhi’s landing zone when its very clearly Kawhi’s already in the air. Like many have said here, was he trying to hurt him? No. Was he trying to crowd his space and make it difficult for him to land cleanly? Absolutely.

Your local bookie offers you a parlay on the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers sweeping their series. How much money would you be willing to put down for that?

Lewis: I don’t even have to clear that decision with a spouse, so all the money I have. Almost.

Mares: $300? I think the Warriors are a lock if Kawhi misses more than a game or two. The Cavs have about a 40% chance at a sweep in my opinion.

Gross: If I bet it, it’ll never happen. If I don’t bet it, then it’s almost guaranteed. So I’ll bet nothing so Mares can buy some new golf polos or something with his winnings.

Douglas: $0. I don’t think they will sweep. I’ve said this several times throughout the course of the playoffs, but underestimating Gregg Popovich, and Brad Stevens is foolish.

Mikash: $5. This is sort of a picking against the field bet. If I could bet on one or the other sweeping the series I’d do it, but with the parlay it’s too much risk. A lot can happen in 8 games, including Isaiah Thomas going off for 50+ points and stealing one from the Cavs.

Kawhi Leonard is out for Game Two. How many points does Kevin Durant score?

Lewis: Many - at least 30 points.

Mares: I’ll go with 40. I think Durant is on a mission and he can see the finish line. And Kyle Anderson isn’t going to get in his way.

Gross: 35. Kevin’s still feeling it out, but they’ll feed him.

Douglas: Ballpark 30 as he usually does. However, I think the Warriors may relax a little with Leonard out opening the opportunity for some others to step up so I’m interested to see how that plays out.

Mikash: I’ll buck the trend here. I think Kawhi being out means the Spurs will game plan for Durant much more than they would with Kawhi in, and I think they hold him to a respectable 25 or so points. This game feels like a Klay Thompson going off type of game.

Which team wins Game Two?

Lewis: The Warriors. They’ve lost one game since March 14, they’re not losing to the Spurs without Kawhi.

Mares: Warriors. Spurs had a great game plan in game one. I think the Kawhi-less Spurs get blown out in game two.

Gross: Warriors. Pop can’t get another game out of his non-Kawhi players like the Houston exsanguination - right?

Douglas: Spurs. Because I like to go against the grain, and because I think we might see a similar response from the Warriors as we did from the Houston Rockets with Leonard out. The Warriors might pull back on the intensity allowing Pop room to capitalize on a win. I will also say that I’m biased here because I really don’t want the Warriors to win.

Mikash: Warriors. You can copy and paste this into every Warriors vs Spurs “who will win” question.

What is your favorite outcome of the lottery?

Lewis: My favorite outcome is the Nuggets winning the second pick, with the Lakers winning the first pick. It’ll be a huge test for Rob (Lowe) Pelinka and Magic Johnson, to see if they’ll take the obvious best player in the draft - Markelle Fultz - or give in to fan pressure and take Lonzo Ball. That leaves the Nuggets with a great opportunity to get the next Kyrie Irving (Fultz) with the second pick. That’d also be a huge trade chip, if the Nuggets wanted to move down (they shouldn’t) and get some additional pieces for a playoff run.

Mares: I think the best outcome for Denver is to get the 3rd pick but for Fultz and Jackson to go one-two. I am a HUGE believer in Lonzo, especially as a fit here in Denver. He has one of the highest basketball IQs I’ve ever seen. Don’t get lost in the mania of his dad and all of the people nitpicking his weaknesses. He is an incredible basketball player, by all accounts he has an insane work ethic, and he’d make the Nuggets the most exciting team in basketball for years to come.

Gross: I’d take the #1 pick obviously, but I don’t like the chances of most 19 year old point guards to immediately impact this team. If Denver got it, I would take Fultz over Ball because Lonzo’s dad doesn’t want him taking a back seat to anyone, especially some international big man. If it worked out it would be Jason Kidd to Jokic’s Dirk... but it took years for Kidd to harness that shot and talent. I’d take Josh Jackson to be our Andre Iguodala at #2 or #3, then trust the Process. Also, if LA could drop to #4 that would be spectacularly funny to me.

Douglas: I’m going to be unconventional again here. I think the best outcome would actually be the Nuggets staying where they’re at with number 13. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think a lower pick might actually force them to be more creative in their choice vs getting caught up in the glamour of the top picks that don’t always pan out. Keep in mind that Nikola Jokic was a late second round pick, and Gary Harris was the 19th overall pick. I think the Nuggets need to make a selection based on what fits best with the current young team vs choosing someone they have to redevelop a culture around.

Mikash: As much as Adam wants to go through the “Lonzo ain’t playing here” charade that Lavar Ball is sure to lead, I’m going to pass on that. Still I’d be perfectly content with the 3rd pick. Fultz and Ball are better prospects than Jackson, I’m convinced of that, but they play point guard and I’m not sure how many more years in a row we can go trying to build a competitive team with a teenage point guard. It’d be nice if the Nuggets get the #3 pick and the two teams in front of them take Fultz and Ball leaving Denver with the no brainer of taking Jackson who would both be the best player on the board and also fill an area of need.

Michael Malone with future Nugget Jamal Murray at the 2016 NBA Draft Lottery. Will Gary Harris get to meet his future teammate at the lottery?