San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich rested his franchise player and five-time NBA Champion Tim Duncan Sunday, during a game against the Warriors that had everything and nothing on the line at the same time.
The Warriors needed to win the game in order to tie the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ regular season record of 72-10. If the Spurs won, they would have been one game closer to becoming the first team in NBA history to finish a regular season with an undefeated record at home.
Despite the chase for records and glory, in reality, neither team really had anything to lose. Both teams locked up the two best records in the NBA. The Warriors are the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and the Spurs are the No. 2. Win or lose, the game did not really matter.
However, the resting of Duncan against the Warriors may have been a strategic move believe it or not. The five-time world champion out of Wake Forest does not match up very well against the small, fast-paced lineup of the Warriors.
The Spurs are 1-1 against the Warriors with Duncan in the lineup this season. Duncan has only played a total of 27 minutes, taking seven shots and grabbing only five rebounds. He has a minus-23.6 points per 100 possessions on the floor against the Warriors. So, Sunday’s win may have not been a fluke.
“Our perimeter had a tough time making shots, that's for sure,” Popovich told ESPN’s Michael Wright. "That was the problem offensively all night, but I couldn't be more proud of them. Steph got away from us for a while, but a part of it was some bad shots. We lost our poise for about a three-minute period, and we were in constant transition, and he got away from us. That was the difference in the ball game. But I'm really proud of the guys what they did tonight."
The Warriors were simply the better team on Sunday, Duncan or no Duncan. From the bottom of my heart, I believe Popovich was trying to win that game. Resting Duncan was a bold move, but a move that he had to do. I do not think he was trying to get fined. Remember what former NBA commissioner David Stern said in 2012?
“The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case,” Stern said in a statement to the Associated Press about the Spurs resting starters. “The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early season game that was the team's only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media or the league office in a timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans."
Golden State is 3-1 against the Spurs this season. They are clearly the better team, far but anything can happen come playoff time.
The Spurs have had a name for themselves when it comes to making adjustments come postseason time. Popovich will figure out the Warriors game plan, no doubt. The series will come down to if the Spurs can execute that plan.