AT&T Center – After missing two playoff games with a sprained right ankle, San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter will play against the Golden State Warriors in game two of the second round of the Western Conference playoffs according to Spurs head Coach Gregg Popovich Wednesday evening.
“They’re good to go,” said Popovich in his pregame press conference of Splitter and Tim Duncan, who had the flu in game one. Duncan, has rid himself of the flu altogether according to Popovich.
Though Splitter is returning to the lineup, Popovich said Boris Diaw, who scored an efficient seven points in game one, will continue to start for San Antonio. On the flipside, Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said he too would start the same starting lineup.
When asked exactly how many minutes Splitter would log in his return, Popovich responded, “17.5” minutes. The “17.5” wasn’t to be taken literally though, as Popovich explained coaches don’t always know how much minutes players can play when returning from an extended injury.
Stephen Curry logged 58 minutes in the Spurs’ double-overtime win over the Warriors, and Coach Jackson said if needed, Curry could play sustained minutes again, though he hopes he doesn’t have to.
“He could,” said Jackson of Curry playing without little rest, “(but) I would not ask him to play 48 minutes running the point and guarding Tony Parker.”
“I really don’t know how much minutes he’ll play tonight,” continued Jackson, “he’ll play a bunch.”
On Kawhi Leonard’s defense of Stephen Curry in the fourth quarter, Jackson attributed some of Leonard’s characteristics, “His size, his length, his athleticism.”
On his own wing defender, Klay Thompson, who contained Parker as much as possible when he was in the game, Jackson compared Leonard’s defense on Curry to Thompson’s defense on Parker, “similar to what Leonard did to Steph,” said Jackson.
Jackson also pointed out that if the opportunity comes up to post Parker with Thompson or Harrison Barnes, the Warriors will not hesitate to exploit the matchup. Coach Popovich on the other hand says the Spurs are prepared for the scenario on defense and will be ready to react tonight.
As for how his team let an 18-point lead fizzle out in game one, Jackson said his team has to make sure the Spurs have to work for every point. “Whatever they get,” said Jackson, “we want them to earn.”
And finally, on Manu Ginobili’s play and the Spurs’ comeback in double-overtime, Jackson ended his pregame press conference with a classic line: “The screaming lady on TNT took the words out of my mouth.”