With their current 9-game win streak along with the Thunder losing their last two, the San Antonio Spurs are now just two wins behind Oklahoma City to take the top spot in the Western Conference. With the number one seed within their grasp, how important is it to Coach Popovich to catch the Thunder? It’s definitely not his top priority.
Spurs fans won’t easily forget what happened last year when the Spurs had the 1-seed. While it would be nice to have home court against the Thunder, should the two teams meet in the Western Conference Finals, having a well-rested lineup and a solid momentum is much more important.
“We’ve always done it most of this year,” Popovich says of monitoring the minutes of his stars during the lockout-shortened, compressed schedule.
“Several years we’ve not been first and we’ve won championships. Anything can happen come playoff time. You want to have a rhythm. You want to be playing your best ball and be healthy… Timmy, Manu and Tony have probably played less minutes than most quote, unquote stars of other teams over the years just because we think it lengthens their careers and makes them fresh in the end.”
Last year the Spurs lost ManuGinobili right before the playoffs and they ended up with a first-round exit, upset by the 8th-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. This year, Coach Pop is playing his trio sparingly, keeping them rested.
It’s a smart move. If the Spurs were to burn out their stars in an attempt to get the top spot and home-court advantage, they could fizzle out and end up an early round exit again. After the grueling, compact 66-game schedule plus the playoffs, by the end of the season all the teams are going to be fried. Maybe teams like the Heat and Thunder can get away with it because their stars are a little bit younger, but Pop is smart to know the limitations of his guys.
Lucky for the Spurs, even when they’re holding back, they still have a deep enough roster that they can keep winning. People are starting to realize that the Spurs are legit and are going to be very dangerous in the playoffs, and I don’t think we’ve even seen their full potential yet.