While Saturday’s game between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder will match up two of the NBA’s best teams, the Spurs will sit Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker.
The Spurs officially ruled out Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker for Saturday's matchup at Oklahoma… https://t.co/477WunGXmR
— Michael C. Wright (@mikecwright) March 25, 2016
Given Gregg Popovich’s history, this is not even remotely surprising. Saturday’s game in Oklahoma City Thunder is the second game of a two city back-to-back. Duncan will be 40 in April, Ginobili will be 39 in July and Parker will be 34 in May, so all three men could certainly use a night off.
More importantly, the Spurs and Thunder are virtually locked into the second and third seeds in the Western Conference.
As long as both teams take care of business in the first round, they’ll face off in the second round. Popovich certainly doesn’t want to show his hand to Billy Donovan and the rest of Oklahoma City. On the other hand, if San Antonio wins or is even close, it would certainly cast a certain doubt over the Thunder as it relates to their chances in a best-of-seven series.
If the Spurs had a better chance at catching the Warriors for the top seed, benching these players wouldn’t make as much sense. But even if San Antonio wins both remaining games against Golden State, they’ll have to make up two more games, which is unlikely.
Similarly, if Oklahoma City had a realistic chance at catching the Spurs for the second seed, then Popovich and company would need to try to secure the better seed. But the next Spurs win or OKC loss will secure the better record for San Antonio.
This isn’t the first time Popovich has done this and it won’t be the last. And as much fun as it would be to watch the Spurs and Thunder play each other with a full compliment of players, there’s virtually no need for it. As usual, the Spurs and their coach are making the right decision.