Behind all the commotion of one of the strangest fines in the history of the NBA were four NBA players, mostly grateful for the rest Gregg Popovich game them. None more than Tim Duncan, who has been playing for the San Antonio Spurs like we’re a decade younger, and he’s one of the main contenders for the MVP award.
If there were any doubters regarding the resting tactics of Popovich, except for those having to pay the fine and David Stern’s stritcly-business way of looking at things, Tim Duncan and the other guys who got a nice long rest (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green) proved just how important it was.
Winning an NBA title is a marathon run, and you have to give up on certain games during an 82 game season, especially if your big three aren’t exactly the youngest around. So, Duncan came out blazing, finishing with 27 points, 15 rebounds and 4 assists; Tony Parker finished with 30, including combining for all of the Spurs’ 12 point in overtime, coming back from a 13 point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter. Gary Neal, who wasn’t among the resting party, finished with 13 points, most of them in the fourth quarter, leading the comeback.
The rest didn’t do everyone justice: Danny Green was a terrible 0-7 from the field, finishing with one big zero under the points column. Manu Ginobili, so far not having the best of seasons, was only 4-15 from the field and finished with 10 points. He is averaging 11.7 this season while shooting 40% from the field, making us wonder if he should have gotten a bit more time to rest and nurse his aching bones.
Still, the rest paid off, if you’re talking strictly numbers: The four players accounted for 67.7% of the points, 56.3% of the rebounds and 64% of the assists. Besides points, it also had a lot to do with defense, keeping the Grizzlies at only 2 fast break points after half time, on their way to a 99-95 win. The Spurs entered the 4th quarter down 13, hitting just 2-of-17 from 3-point range the first three quarters, but they found their touch, going 5-for-9 in the 4th from beyond the arc. They outscored the Grizzlies by 17 over the final quarter and overtime, and beat them on the break, with a 12-0 fastbreak-point edge in that same span.
Duncan, as in most games this season, was especially effective earlier on in the game, despite having to find his way through the arms of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. He is now averaging 18.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, but he also got a lot of time on the bench during the very comfortable wins vs the Magic and the Wizards, hurting his numbers. I’m guessing Popovich doesn’t really care, and neither does Duncan.
A rested Spurs team have enough in the tank to beat the Memphis Grizzlies, a younger and stronger, at least physically, squad. It didn’t even take the best the Spurs have to dish to do it. Regardless of the fine, Popovich knows his only chance of winning in the postseason is if Duncan and Parker don’t reach the playoffs with their tongues hanging out their mouths. Knowing which games it’s OK to lose is just as important as winning as many as possible along the way.