The San Antonio Spurs (63-12) are in a pretty nice spot. Yes, they’re five games behind Golden State (68-7) for the top spot in the West – with only seven games to play – but they’re also 11 games ahead of Oklahoma City (52-23).
Translation? Gregg Popovich can rest his key players for the remainder of the regular season, which is something he intends to do at least to some degree, even with two games remaining against Golden State.
The Warriors, meanwhile, will continue their pursuit of the 72-win 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. If the Warriors go 4-3 the rest of the way, they’ll tie the record. If they go 5-2 or better, which seems likely, they’ll break it.
Still, you have to wonder if this will come back to haunt Golden State in the playoffs. If the Spurs are resting, shouldn’t the Warriors do that as well to remain fresh for the postseason?
Maybe, maybe not.
“I would say that the situations are slightly different just because the Spurs are obviously a much older team with a lot more miles on them in terms of their core personnel,” NBA-TV and TNT NBA analyst David Aldridge said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “As a matter of maintenance, they have to rest guys. They just can’t play (Tim) Duncan and (Manu) Ginobili and (Tony) Parker big minutes.”
Duncan turns 40 in April. Ginobili turns 39 in July. Parker turns 34 in May.
“I think some of the injuries that (Kawhi) Leonard has had this year kind of have forced them to err on the side of caution,” Aldridge said. “And I don’t know this – I haven’t talked to Popovich about this – but I just wonder if his team had gotten off to the start that the Warriors did, or any team for that matter, I just don’t know how you can’t go for it at some point of the season.”
Indeed, the Warriors started the season 24-0, 36-2 and were 48-4 at the All-Star break. The Spurs, on the other hand, were a modest 3-2, 9-3, 14-4 and 18-5. They’ve since gone 45-7.
“I think you cross the Rubicon after the All-Star break when they continued to play well,” Aldridge said. “And I must admit: I really didn’t think until a couple of weeks ago that they were going to break the record. I just thought somebody would get hurt, they’d have to hit a rough patch at some point during the season – and they haven’t. So once you get to 50, 60 games into a season, I think you have to let them try. How can you not? They’re so close now, you have to let them try. They have proven to you that they can play at a high level for two years now without having any type of debilitating long-term injury, so I think you have to let them try.”
The Warriors, who beat the Jazz, 103-96, in overtime on Wednesday, play their next four games at home against Boston, Portland, Minnesota and San Antonio, which means win No. 72 could come against, you guessed it, the Spurs. That game is slated for April 7 at 10:30 p.m. ET.