- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs have made a habit of ignoring the potential entertainment value of games in favor of doing whatever they believe to be the best path toward winning a championship. More often than not, that decision involves resting starters and valuable rotation players on the road or on the second night of a back-to-back vs. any opponent. The league and many fans don't like it, but it's what the Spurs do. It happens often enough that it's come to be expected.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
That history has caused many to believe that Popovich will sit his key players when the Spurs take on the history-seeking Golden State Warriors twice in the season's final four games. The Warriors figure to have the West's No. 1 seed locked up by that point (in part because the Spurs rested a bunch of players on Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder), and the Spurs won't want to show too much against a team they hope to face in the conference finals.
What was expected now looks extremely likely to pass. Tony Parker said he thinks Popovich will sit the team's key players for both those games. Here are the quotes from his French radio show as transcribed by Jeff Garcia of News4SA.com:
I think no one will play (versus the Warriors). To Pop (Gregg Popovich), the most important thing is that the players are rested for the playoffs. As for first place, he does not care.
For us, the end of the regular season is a good time to rest. That's why we play hard throughout the season, trying to win the most games possible, to find ourselves in this situation of "luxury," we are sure we will be the second seed and we can all rest before the playoffs. [...]
I think the most important thing for him (Popovich) is to win the NBA title. The record at home or games against Golden State, is not what interests him.
As Parker notes, losing to the Warriors at the AT&T Center on April 10 would potentially end the team's perfect record at home (if it hadn't happened already). If the Warriors fail to lose until that contest, a win would be their 73rd of the season, breaking the 1995-96 Bulls' record. In other words, that game could hold great historical context with two major records (and the end of the Warriors' 19-year drought of regular-season wins in San Antonio) on the line. It would be thrilling to see the two best teams in the league face each other under those circumstances.
The Spurs just aren't wired to see such moments as worthy of their attention if they get in the way of the pursuit of a championship. That approach has obviously served Popovich and his players very well over the years, so it's understandable why they would choose not to stop for momentary glory when they view a title as their ultimate destination.
However, this mindset is exactly why many fans cannot embrace the Spurs even as it's become conventional wisdom that their full-strength style is anything but boring. Every contender tries to be in its ideal form for the playoffs, but San Antonio often takes that idea to parodic extremes. Logically or not, a lot of people enjoy treating regular-season matchups as momentous occasions. Elite teams that buy into that belief tend to win over more neutrals than those that do not.
- - - - - - -