NBA Playoffs: Should Gregg Popovich Start Resting San Antonio Spurs?

By Nick Elizondo
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Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

With the NBA Playoffs around the corner, it is time to take into consideration the health of some of the elderly and injury prone San Antonio Spurs players.

Unfortunately for the Spurs, Tony Parker went out  in the first quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies with back spasms.

His lower back has been troubling him throughout the year, and he is too vital to the team for him to be hurt for playoffs. The Spurs are very close to locking in the first seed and the best record in the league. It just doesn’t seem likely that the Oklahoma City Thunder will catch up to the Spurs.

Here are a couple of reasons as to why Gregg Popovich should consider shutting down at least the Big Three until playoffs begin:

Should Popovich Rest the Big Three?

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Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh Legs

With Manu Ginobili pushing close to Tim Duncan’s age of 37, their bodies aren’t going to let them run up and down the court all game with some of the faster paced teams. The Spurs, themselves, have increased their offensive tempo. With a potential of meeting the Phoenix Suns in the first round, the older guys will definitely need to be fresh.

This new looking Suns team still plays the way of the Steve Nash-Era Suns by pushing that ball up the floor and just trying to beat their opponents with their athleticism. I don’t think any of us want to see a tired Duncan trying to chase around the Morris Twins or Channing Frye around the the 3 point line all game.

Of course, fresh legs goes much further than the first round. Starting to rest the players now can help them last longer at a fresher level throughout the playoffs.

Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Element of Surprise

Three of the remaining five games the Spurs play are against potential playoff match ups (Suns, Mavs, Rockets). The scariest of those match ups are of course the Houston Rockets. 

The Rockets have had the Spurs number this season by winning the three games they have played so far by a margin of 8.67 points. Both teams have had a few players missing in some of these games, but the Rockets haven’t played this Spurs team that has won 20 of its last 21.

Spurs fans shouldn’t want our best team to play the Rockets either. Why would we want them to prepare themselves against the well-oiled machine Spurs in a potential matchup? Kevin McHale is on a far lower level of in-game adjustments compared to Popovich, and in playoffs, every game matters.

The teams can’t fully study or completely compare themselves against what they haven’t experienced. This goes the same for the Phoenix Suns. Getting the first punch in playoffs is a big advantage.

Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Confidence Builder

Whenever one of the Big Three sits out, we usually get to watch Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and others play more minutes and have more opportunities to shine. The absence of the usual Spurs stars allows these players to have the ball in their hands more and to show other teams that they can be just as big of a threat.

Most teams decrease their benches’ minutes come playoff time, but this is where the Spurs thrive. The constant rotation of fresh legs to keep the screens, cuts, ball movement, and fundamental basketball plays running at full speed starts to breakdown the other team.

The most important of these players that the playoffs truly depend on is Kawhi LeonardBoris Diaw, Marco Belenelli and Patty Mills will continue their strong play and make a big difference with their improvements, but Leonard can be that guy that can make the Spurs unstoppable. We all know that Leonard’s minutes will sky rocket in the playoffs, and if he is flourishing with confidence come playoff time then I think Kawhi can impress the whole basketball world once again.

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