Playoff-bound NBA teams value health over seeding
Without a healthy Ginobili, the Spurs fell in six games to the Memphis Grizzlies, becoming just the second No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 8 since the league went to a seven-game format in the first round for 2002-03.
“We ended up first last year, but with Manu’s injury it didn’t do us any good,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich recently told USA TODAY Sports.
Going into the last week of this truncated, 66-game season, teams that have clinched playoff spots are resting starters, even at the expense of a higher seeding.
The Spurs were at full strength for Monday’s game vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. If they win, they’ll lock up the best record in the West for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs and it’s unlikely that Popovich will play Tim Duncan, Ginobili or Tony Parker much, if at all, the rest of the week.
The Indiana Pacers are locked into third in the Eastern Conference, comfortably four games ahead of the Boston Celtics and five games behind the Miami Heat entering Monday. The Pacers will not play All-Star center Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger or George Hill on Monday against the Detroit Pistons. The Pacers finish the season against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
Over the weekend, the Heat were one game behind the Bulls for the best record in the East but held out Chris Bosh and LeBron James. The Heat lost to the Washington Wizards and were two games behind going into Monday’s games.
The Dallas Mavericks rested guards Jason Kidd and Jason Terry in a 93-83 loss to the Bulls on Saturday. The Mavs have clinched a playoff spot but dropped from sixth to seventh in the Western Conference. They were one-half game behind the Denver Nuggets.
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins held out All-Star Zach Randolph in a 93-89 win against Portland last weekend. Randolph, who missed more than two months because of a ligament injury in his right knee, played Monday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Grizzlies were in the fifth spot, just one game behind the No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers.
Hollins, however, insisted as long as there’s a possibility of home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, he’s still playing to win.
“I definitely don’t want to play guys a whole lot of minutes. But what are we going to do, just shut down and try to rev it up for the playoffs?” Hollins said. “I think we have to being consistent, trying to build.”
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