San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich really means it when he says that the NBA Playoffs are more important than the regular season. Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he decided to sit five of his top stars, according to ESPN. It’s already hard enough to beat Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant when your team is at full speed. It’s especially hard when you are relying on your role players and reserves. The Thunder picked up the expected victory over the Spurs.
As a gigantic marketing company, the NBA was really hoping to draw in fans to the game between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night. They’re two of the best teams in the Western Conference and National Basketball Association. There’s a ton of hype because the game should have had playoffs intensity. Gregg Popovich doesn’t care about such things, so he decided to rest his stars.
Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan all sat out the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder to rest. Officially, Kawhi Leonard was out of the game because of a right quad contusion injury. Leonard could have actually played, but Gregg Popovich felt that it wasn’t worth the unnecessary risk in a game that is highly unlikely to affect the top standings in the Western Conference. Between those five guys, that’s a lot of firepower.
Instead of the usual starting lineup, the San Antonio Spurs trotted out Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, Boris Diaw and Boban Marjanovic as their makeshift starters. Green has started 71 games for the Spurs this season. Mills, Anderson, Diaw and Marjanovic have a combined 13 starts this season. Most NBA coaches would not have the nerve to try something like this, but since Gregg Popovich has enviable job security, he can do so as he pleases because his track record includes five NBA Championships and three Coach of the Year awards.
Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, Boris Diaw and Boban Marjanovic combined for 42 points. Not exactly what you would expect from the starting lineup. The five man crew also combined for 19 rebounds, something that Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and Detroit Pistons star Andre Drummond have done on their own in a single game several times.
Fortunately for the San Antonio Spurs, they received some help from their bench players. Andre Miller, Jonathan Simmons and David West combined for 45 points, outscoring the starting unit. Miller and West, two NBA veterans who were added this season because they wanted to chase a championship, also chipped in with 14 rebounds and five assists. On the flip side, the Oklahoma City Thunder received 22 points from their bench, with 20 of those coming from Enes Kanter himself.
Not surprisingly, the Oklahoma City Thunder were led by their top three stars. Russell Westbrook was his brilliant self with 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Kevin Durant was dominant as usual with 31 points and ten rebounds. Without LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan around, Thunder big man Serge Ibaka had 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots. The game seemingly would have been much more competitive if Gregg Popovich had utilized Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Aldridge and Duncan.
What Gregg Popovich does in terms of resting stars doesn’t sit well with many in the NBA. League executives hate it because advertisers, sponsors and fans feel like they are being cheated out of seeing star players. Other teams in the National Basketball Association are bothered by the strategy because they feel that Popovich is playing mind games with opponents; The San Antonio Spurs don’t really care as long as they get to the NBA Finals.
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