The San Antonio Spurs are the best team in the NBA when it comes to maintaining their player health, especially that of their stars. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich does a fantastic job of keeping Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker fresh throughout the season, but last year that didn’t matter in the playoffs. San Antonio’s 20-game winning streak ended in the Western Conference Finals despite the Big Three being 100 percent healthy. In the past week, and especially during their Rodeo Trip, the Spurs have proved that they can compete without their stars on the floor. In order to win their first title in six years, the Spurs need to start resting the stars during the playoffs, too.
Call me crazy, but the Spurs are probably used to having Duncan, Ginobili and/or Parker out periodically throughout the season, so it’s almost like those players’ rest is part of San Antonio’s team chemistry. So when those guys are carrying the load during the playoffs, the younger players who typically step up in their absence get comfortable in supporting roles again and then are unable to perform in crunch time.
Not only that, but even though their rest throughout the regular season keeps them fresh, the older guys like Duncan and Ginobili aren’t used to playing every night, especially at the intensity level that’s required in the postseason. Now obviously San Antonio can’t sit the Big Three in a pivotal Game 3, 5 or 7, but with a 3-0 or even 3-1 lead in a series (which is likely in the first and second rounds), the Other Big Three can handle it.
Kawhi Leonard, Gary Neal and Danny Green have really come of age this season and have proven they can maintain the Spurs’ momentum without Duncan, Parker and Ginobili on the floor. So San Antonio’s best bet would be to rest one of the Big Three in at least one game during every series just to keep things as normal as possible. Professional athletes are all about routine and rhythm and if the Spurs keeping throwing off those two aspects in the playoffs, they’ll keep coming up short of their ultimate goal.