Spurs resting banged-up starters against Warriors
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs are resting up for the playoffs, even if it costs a couple of regular-season wins.
Point guard Tony Parker (sore neck, left ankle), power forward Tim Duncan (sore left knee) and small forward Kawhi Leonard (sore left knee) sat out Monday night against the Golden State Warriors because of nagging injuries, the team said. All three had played in San Antonio’s 91-86 loss at the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.
The Spurs also were without reserve guard Manu Ginobili, who has been out since straining his right hamstring March 29. Backup forward Boris Diaw also is likely out until at least the second round of the playoffs following back surgery.
Whether Ginobili returns for the regular-season finale Wednesday against Minnesota is unclear. But Spurs coach Gregg Popovich left no doubt about the status of Parker, Duncan and Leonard for the Timberwolves game.
“Everybody will play on Wednesday because it’s not a back-to-back,” Popovich said. “What we’re doing tonight is what we do. We’ve done it all year. We’ve done it for 17 years.”
The Thunder clinched the Western Conference’s top seed by beating Sacramento 104-95 on Wednesday night. The Spurs will be seeded second and face Golden State or Houston in the first round beginning this week. The Warriors started Monday in seventh place because the Rockets own the tiebreaker after winning the season series 3-1.
The only concern for Popovich is the playoffs.
San Antonio has been alternating lineups because of various injuries over the past month. Even when all the starters have played, the lack of continuity has showed.
Parker scored just four points on 1-of-10 shooting while playing for just the fourth time in April in the loss against the Lakers, possibly slowed by his injured ankle. San Antonio has lost five of eight entering the game at Golden State.
“We’ve been playing better almost any other year going into the playoffs compared to this year,” Popovich said. “The health this year, the different lineups all the time based on what’s happened toward the latter part of the season is certainly a part of it. But I also think our focus hasn’t been as good as it needs to be the last three to four weeks. I’ve been disappointed in our focus. The defensive improvements that we made this year have dissipated to some degree.”
The reigning NBA Coach of the Year still has never been afraid to rest his starters.
Popvich’s decision to send Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Danny Green home instead of having them play for the second game of a back-to-back Nov. 19 in Miami created a stir around the league. It was the finale of a six-game road trip, finishing with four games in five days. The Spurs did not give the NBA or Miami prior notice of the players’ absences, which led the NBA to fine San Antonio $250,000.
Against Golden State, the Spurs started point guard Cory Joseph, Green, forward Matt Bonner and centers DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson has no problem with the Spurs resting starters — or any team that has “earned the right” — because San Antonio already had sealed its playoff position.
“We’ve seen this movie before,” Jackson said. “They are still the San Antonio Spurs with a great coach and a mentality that night in and night out puts them in position to win ball games … If you put your guard down, they’ll just find a way to win.”