Spurs patiently await opponent for 2nd round
SAN ANTONIO (AP)
The San Antonio Spurs know the playoffs require physicality, focus and teamwork. They have learned patience is needed, too.
For the second consecutive postseason, San Antonio will wait at least a week between series in the Western Conference playoffs.
After completing a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers on April 28, the Spurs are awaiting the winner between Golden State and Denver. The Warriors hold a 3-2 lead entering Game 6 at home Thursday night.
Waiting is nothing new for the playoff-veteran Spurs.
San Antonio waited eight days last season after sweeping Utah in the opening round and then had a week between games after sweeping the Los Angeles Clippers. They opened the Western Conference finals with two straight wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder before dropping four straight to lose the series.
So, the Spurs aren't concerned about losing the rhythm as they await their second-round opponent given last season's success.
''We kind of enjoy it; to have a couple of days off (to) practice,'' Manu Ginobili said. ''Last year we did great with those days. Hopefully we maintain that trend.''
San Antonio has been practicing, getting healthy and watching a lot of televised playoff games this week.
''I watch every game,'' Tony Parker said. ''I'm a student of the game. I love watching the games. It's the playoffs. (With) all the games, you can always learn something.''
Of particular interest is the matchup between the Warriors and Nuggets, naturally.
Golden State, the sixth seed, took home-court advantage away from third-seed Denver by winning three of the first four games, but the Nuggets won 107-100 on Tuesday to extend the series.
''Those games have been really fun to watch,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ''Both teams have people that are really difficult to guard. With Steph Curry, specifically, I don't know if anybody is better at shooting the ball today.''
Both teams feature up-tempo offenses, which has given San Antonio an advantage in preparations for the second round.
''Both teams are good, it's going to be tough,'' Boris Diaw said. ''Honestly, I don't know who's going to come out on top. They are playing pretty similar style of basketball. It's good for us, we don't have to prepare for two different styles of basketball; we can do the same thing.''
While both teams are known for their offense, the series has grown testy defensively with Golden State coach Mark Jackson accusing Denver of ''dirty play.'' Jackson accused the Nuggets of intentionally trying to injure Curry during Game 5 with what he saw as a pair of questionable fouls.
''They tried to send hit men at Steph,'' Jackson said following Game 5. ''There were some dirty plays early. It's playoff basketball. It's all right. Make no mistake, we were up 3-1 (in the series) playing hard, clean physical basketball, not trying to hurt anybody.''
Diaw didn't classify the fouls as ''dirty,'' but said all teams can expect added physicality during the playoffs, especially if a team has a hot shooter like Golden State has in Curry.
''It's always good to be physical, but you don't want to injure anybody,'' Diaw said. ''But in the playoffs, everybody is going to be physical with everybody. You've got to be as close as possible from players, especially with shooters like this - you don't want him to slip away.''
Diaw is especially happy with the time off after undergoing back surgery April 11 to remove a cyst. He has fully participated in 5-on-5 practices this week and expects to play whenever the second-round series opens.
''Actually, it's good for my recovery, personally,'' Diaw said of the break. ''It's a long time between the first and second rounds for my teammates, but for me, it's good.''
Diaw's return could be critical for San Antonio considering Denver and Golden State are both known for using smaller lineups that feature perimeter players. A 6-foot-8 forward, Diaw is shooting 39 percent from 3-point range and gives the Spurs an added ballhandler.
''He's like another point guard on the court,'' Parker said. ''He gets a lot of shots for everybody very unselfish.''
The Spurs have also used the time off to get Tracy McGrady further acclimated into their system. McGrady played 5 minutes in San Antonio's series finale against the Lakers, his first action since signing with the Spurs on April 16.
The break has also aided Tiago Splitter, who is expected back at some point during the second round after injuring his ankle in Game 3 against the Lakers.
''We need to get Tiago back, and Boris is just getting back and Tracy needs a couple more practices,'' Parker said. ''And for myself, Manu and Timmy, it doesn't hurt to get a couple of days off.''
Parker and Ginobili both battled leg injuries during the final month of the regular season, but both said they are feeling stronger every day.