Grizzlies-Spurs Preview

The Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made a seemingly logical decision to sit four of his top players at the end of a six-game road trip to better prepare for a showdown with the Memphis Grizzlies.

The organization now has a lighter wallet because of it.

Despite NBA commissioner David Stern's controversial penalty, San Antonio's core will be well-rested Saturday night when it hosts surging Memphis.

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After the Spurs (13-4) defeated Orlando on Wednesday, Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home on a commercial flight to rest before the remainder of the team faced Miami in a nationally televised contest Thursday night.

''Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule, about players playing and back-to-backs and trips and that sort of thing,'' Popovich said. ''In our case, this month we've had 11 away games. We've had an eight-day trip and a 10-day trip, and we're ending it with four (games) in five nights (in Miami). I think it'd be unwise to be playing our guys in that kind of a situation, given their history.

''Perhaps it'll give us an opportunity to stay on the court with Memphis on Saturday night."

Stern didn't agree, saying Popovich's decision was "unacceptable" and ''contrary to the best interests of the NBA" while apologizing to the league's fans before Wednesday's game.

He fined the organization $250,000 on Thursday despite many around the league defending Popovich's decision.

''The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case,'' Stern said. ''The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early-season game that was the team's only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way.''

San Antonio delivered a solid performance anyway, leading into the final minute of the fourth quarter before falling 105-100 to end a five-game winning streak.

Gary Neal scored 20 points off the bench while Matt Bonner added 10 and 10 rebounds.

''Oh, it would have been great if we won,'' Bonner said. "We have faith in everybody on our roster. We think we have one of the deepest teams in the league.''

The Spurs haven't commented on the penalty and have seemed to turn their attention to the first meeting with the Grizzlies since sweeping last season's four-game season series.

Coach Lionel Hollins also didn't comment on Popovich's decision and the ensuing fine, but Memphis (12-2) seems more than prepared for the Southwest Division showdown after winning the final four of its five-game homestand with Friday's 90-78 victory over Detroit.

Rudy Gay finished with a game-high 18 points while Marc Gasol (11 rebounds) and Mike Conley scored 17 apiece.

''We played a lot of good teams in this homestand, and in the last few weeks,'' Conley said. ''For us to get this win, is huge for what we stand for, and that's just one game at a time and being ready for each individual opponent.''

Memphis tied a season best for points allowed and ranks first in the NBA defensively, yielding 90.1 per game.

''I'm happy we were ahead and our defense was still strong," Hollins said.

The Grizzlies have won four straight on the road since a season-opening loss at the Los Angeles Clippers, but they've dropped 14 of their last 15 regular-season games in San Antonio.

Duncan scored 28 points and added 12 rebounds in the Spurs' 107-97 home victory in the most recent meeting April 12.

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