The biggest mystery surrounding the Golden State Warriors’ run at history is how motivated San Antonio will be to stop it.
The NBA’s two best teams this season will meet twice this week, perhaps the biggest remaining obstacles to the Warriors’ quest for an NBA-record 73 victories.
Or, the Spurs might decide not to be much of an obstacle at all.
With less than two weeks until the playoffs and the Spurs (64-12) all but locked into the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, coach Gregg Popovich has already begun resting his players on occasion. So it’s impossible to predict who will be in uniform for San Antonio when it travels to Golden State on Thursday, or hosts the Warriors (69-8) on Sunday.
“It doesn’t matter, to me, how he plays it,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Popovich, one of his former coaches. “His team is a little older than ours, too.”
Kerr said the younger Warriors told him they don’t feel they need a rest, but Popovich doesn’t exactly give his players the option. When he made LaMarcus Aldridge sit out one of his first practices with the team in October, Popovich joked that he told the All-Star forward, “Welcome to the Spurs.”
The Spurs will be opening a back-to-back Thursday in Oakland, so Popovich figures to sit some regulars either that night or Friday in Denver. San Antonio is then off until the Warriors visit, and follows that game with another night off before hosting Oklahoma City.
San Antonio will be 39-0 at home when Golden State arrives, two victories from becoming the first team in NBA history to go undefeated at home for an entire season. That could motivate the Spurs to make everyone available — and leave Kerr as the one who might play the rest card.
The Warriors will be playing for the second straight night after a game in Memphis, and Kerr said he may give reserve guard Shaun Livingston one of those games off.
“Other than that, we have a lot of young guys who have no reason to sit out because they’re feeling great,” Kerr said.
uWHERE TO WATCH:
The Warriors’ schedule for the week, and how to watch them:
Monday vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m., TNT
Thursday vs. San Antonio, 7:30 p.m., TNT
Saturday at Memphis, 5 p.m., NBA League Pass.
Sunday at San Antonio, 4 p.m., NBA TV.
Elsewhere in the NBA this week:
uTAKE THE NIGHT OFF: There are no games on the schedule Monday for the NCAA championship game. Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve are the only other nights during the season without an NBAgame.
uBIG ONE IN THE BIG D: With Dallas and Utah tied for the final Western Conference playoff spot and Houston a game back, it’s a huge game in Dallas on Wednesday night when the Rockets visit.
uSTRIVE FOR FIVE: With injury-plagued Memphis on a six-game losing streak, Portland has pulled within a half-game of the Grizzlies for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.
uDUNCAN’S 1,000TH: Tim Duncan’s next victory will be his 1,000th in the regular season, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,074) and Robert Parish (1,014) as the only players to reach that milestone. Duncan is already the career leader in victories with one team.
uPHILLY FUTILITY: The 76ers have lost 12 straight games and remain stuck on nine wins. They need one more to avoid tying their own record for worst in an 82-game season, and their next chance to get it is against the injury-depleted New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.
uSTAT LINE OF THE WEEK: Blake Griffin, Clippers: 6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists Sunday in a 114-109 victory over Washington. The star forward started and played 25 minutes in his first game since Christmas after recovering from quadriceps and hand injuries, and sitting out a four-game suspension for punching the team’s assistant equipment manager.