Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Rest or rust? The San Antonio Spurs will answer the question when they step on the court for Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat Thursday night.
The Spurs have been off for much of the past week after quickly disposing of the Memphis Grizzlies in a four game sweep in the Western Conference Finals. Since then, San Antonio has had to hurry up and wait for the Miami Heat to finally emerge as the Eastern Conference champion after a grueling Eastern Conference Finals.
The Spurs haven’t been challenged in the playoffs, losing just two games against to the Golden State Warriors. Incidentally, the Warriors were the most athletic team the Spurs faced in the playoffs, at least until the Heat step on the court with them.
But the big question is how the Spurs will respond to having nine days off between the end of the conference finals and the beginning of the NBA Finals.
“They are going to be in more of a rhythm than us,” point guard Tony Parker said. “But, hopefully, we will be rusty like in the first quarter or first half and we will be better in the second half.”
San Antonio prepared for both the Indiana Pacers and the Heat, but only had one practice after it was known the Heat were the team’s NBA Finals opponents. For the Spurs, and the Heat, they don’t’ have a lot of game video to go on between the two teams.
Due to various reasons, from the lockout to fatigue, to injuries, the Spurs and Heat haven’t been at full strength when they have played since the 2010-2011 season. The teams played twice during the current season with Miami taking both contests.
But, in those games, various stars were out of the contest. Early in the season, the Spurs sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Danny Green home just before a game against the Heat drawing the ire of fans and the NBA.
Later in the season, the Heat played at San Antonio, but sat LeBron James and Dwyane Wade due to injuries, causing some to say it was retribution for what happened earlier in the season.
“For the most part, yes, they don’t really have much to do with anything that we’re working on,” Popovich said.
Instead, the Spurs spent much of their time off playing five-on-five in an attempt to maintain a rhythm that has them playing some of their best basketball of the season.
“I don’t think we’ve had this much rest all season,” Green said. “Hopefully it helped us and hopefully the extra games hurt them. That’s what we’re hoping for, that they’re tired a little bit and that we’re fresh and come out hopefully sharp.”
San Antonio is averaging 101.6 points in the playoffs, slightly fewer than its regular season average (103.0). More importantly to the Spurs, their added defensive focus has enabled them to hold postseason opponents to 91.5 points compared to 96.6 during the regular season.
So is it better to be rested or in rhythm entering a playoff series?
“I’ve got no clue,” Popovich said. “We’ll try to do our best.”
Not surprisingly, Popovich didn’t fully embrace his time with the media, but players such as Matt Bonner seemed to enjoy a break from the monotony of practice. When he wasn’t letting his beard grow out, Bonner was jokingly trolling for sponsorship.
“Personally, I’ve been looking for a shoe endorsement for years now, but I’ve been unsuccessful,” Bonner said. “No, that’s a terrible joke, and, completely self-serving.”
That’s what happens when an extended break begins to feel like camp. Still, the Spurs wouldn’t trade places with the Heat.
“You want to play,” Ginobili said. “You don’t want to lose your rhythm. That’s what makes it a little harder, but, as I always said, you can’t complain when you win a series in four instead of going to a Game 7, so we’re OK.”
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