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Expect to see more of what Gregg Popovich did Thursday

Dec 30, 2011, 2:58 PM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antionio Spurs - Game Five Getty Images

Tim Duncan didn’t touch the court in the second half of the Spurs loss Thursday to the Rockets. Manu Ginobili played the first seven minutes of the second half then sat the rest of the way. Tony Parker sat the last 14 minutes. The Spurs bench and younger legs got more run.

The Spurs were down 18 at the half, a lot but not an insurmountable amount. However, the Spurs decided to roll over.

It was their third game in four nights and coach Gregg Popovich decided rest would be better for this team long term, he told NBA.com.

“Down 18, third game in four nights, on the road,” Popovich said. “We weren’t playing well. I’m not sure how many times I want to be down 18 in this shortened season and work Timmy, Manu (Ginobili) and Tony (Parker) to work us out of that hole. Not this early in the season.

“Later on, depending on our situation, it might make more sense. But at this point, it was a great opportunity to treat it like training camp and get a lot of the younger kids out there and treat it like a practice.”

Right now in games we are seeing a lot of lineup experimentation and younger players getting extended run as coaches try to see what they really have and what works. Things that would have been done in training camp.

Going forward that may lessen, but more and more coaches will do what Popovich did — pick the battles worth fighting. There are times to accept the loss and keep legs fresh. Particularly for coaches of veteran teams.

Popovich was the first to do it. Sort of.

In the same game the Rockets Kyle Lowry never played in the fourth quarter. The Rockets were in the first game of a back-to-back-to-back and rest mattered there, too.

Get used to it folks, it’s the way this season will be.

  1. bcb1999 - Dec 30, 2011 at 7:22 PM

    Love how Pop is thinking that early season games aren’t as important as late season games. Win a game early in the season, and it might put you in a position to fully rest Duncan or Manu later in the season leading to the playoffs. To just give up in a game doesn’t seem like something a professional coach should be doing, no matter how many games they’ve played.

    • raidmagic - Dec 30, 2011 at 10:38 PM

      I don’t know. Seems like a good time to rest your vets and see some younger guys. I’d rather find out now who can play than when my team is in a playoff run.

  2. mikefrommars - Dec 30, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    Its better to rest now. The hot teams going into the playoffs usually do better. You dont want to risk losing that by resting at the end. Better to keep them healthy with fresh legs than risk losing momentum in the end.

  3. craigw24 - Dec 31, 2011 at 8:53 AM

    This isn’t exactly breaking news…Pop has been doing this for years – perhaps not as pronounced, but he believes in keeping the minutes down on his starters so that he can call on them in the playoffs and they will be ready, not exhausted like the Lakers last year.

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