SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs held out injured forward Kawhi Leonard (right quadriceps) and rested Danny Green, along with reserves Patty Mills and Boris Diaw, during the team’s 110-104 win over the injury-ravaged Memphis Grizzlies.
That’s a luxury San Antonio can afford, considering the win Friday night locked up no worse than the No. 2 seed for the Western Conference playoffs with 10 games remaining in the regular season. The Spurs can now rest key veterans as the regular season comes to a close, which in turn increases the minutes for inexperienced role players such as Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons, as well as newcomers Andre Miller and Kevin Martin, who could all be called upon during the postseason.
The victory on Friday was San Antonio’s 37th straight at home, which ties the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the longest home winning streak to start a season in NBA history.
“You just try to do your best,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “You don’t want to decondition them and you don’t want to lose rhythm. But you want to rest.”
LaMarcus Aldridge made that an easier proposition by knocking down 7 of 8 shots in the first quarter on the way to 17 points, the most he has scored in a single quarter all season. Aldridge poured in a total of 32 points, including 21 in the first half, while Duncan started off the opening half hitting 4-of-5 for eight points. He also recorded five rebounds and five assists before finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds.
The game marked Aldridge’s second outing as a Spur in which he scored 30 points or more, and he also posted 12 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
“I just had a good offensive rhythm tonight. I thought guys were looking for me out there,” Aldridge said. “I thought Manu was giving me some good passes to the rim; Andre on the break. Guys were just finding me. [Miller] is easy to play with. He finds you when you’re open, and the game is really easy with him out there.”
Heading into the game, Miller averaged 8.3 minutes in his previous 10 contests, while Martin averaged 10.4 minutes over the same span. The duo contributed 16 and 34 minutes, respectively, versus Memphis and gained a level of comfort in their new surroundings and new teammates that could pay dividends for San Antonio in the postseason.
“I needed that,” Martin said.
He contributed 13 points in his first start as a Spur, while Miller added four points and three assists. Ginobili chipped in 13 points, hitting 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
"It's always good when guys who don't play a lot of minutes can get time out there on the floor cardio-wise, timing-wise, offensively and rhythm-wise," Aldridge said. "I thought those guys played well tonight."
Duncan called the situation “a good experience game for a lot of different guys, a good execution game for us. A lot of these guys haven’t been in our offense and executed everything perfectly to this point.”
They didn’t execute perfectly against the Grizzlies, either. But that’s inconsequential as the Spurs accomplished their goal of keeping everyone as healthy as possible heading into the playoffs, while providing needed game experience for their role players.
“It’s obviously good for these other guys to get minutes and play in situations where they get used to the guys,” Popovich said. “Kevin just got here. Kyle has ... rarely started. It’s all good experience. It can only be good for them.”
Anderson averaged 14.9 minutes in his previous 10 games and clocked 24 against the Grizzlies, tallying six points on 3-of-5 shooting. Simmons averaged 16.5 minutes over his past 10 contests before logging 20 in the win over Memphis to go with eight points.
Popovich mentioned that in the past, “There’s probably been a time ... where [a player has] questioned me” about the decision to rest him. But ultimately, “They trust what we’re doing.”
Five NBA championships tend to create such a level of trust in Popovich.
“It’s great just for our bodies, and mentally, the season is long,” Duncan said. “We’ve been through all of this before, a lot of us obviously. Rest-wise, he’s always been great at that over my career, just keeping people fresh and understanding the playoffs are where we want to be. When you’re tired, you can get injured more easily. So he’s managed that incredibly and we’ll continue to trust it.”