SAN ANTONIO Rest is good, but having more than a week off between games may be too much of a good thing.
With the Eastern Conference finals knotted at 2-2, the NBA Finals are set to begin on June 7 a week from today. That means the Spurs will have eight days between games.
It's a similar situation to the 1998 Finals when the Jazz swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals but then had 10 days off. The Chicago Bulls were pushed to seven games by the Indiana Pacers that season in the Eastern Conference.
"Oh, man, that's extremely tough," said veteran forward Robert Horry. "You can get too much rest and be too rusty or there are a lot of different things that can happen." The veteran Spurs are the oldest team in the NBA, so perhaps the long layoff will do them good. The Eastern Conference teams Detroit and Cleveland could beat each other up over the next week, too.
Then again, having more than a week off could damage the momentum the Spurs have attained through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
"I'll take the rest," said Spurs point guard Tony Parker. "We've got a lot of old guys on our team."
Just because they won't play a game for another week doesn't mean the Spurs will take it easy, however. Their coach, Greg Popovich, won't allow it, and he will start preparing for the Cavaliers or Pistons immediately."We will get on it (today) and start watching both teams a little bit more closely," said Popovich.
POOR IMPRESSION: Popovich said having his players dodge things thrown by Jazz fans at the conclusion of Monday's Game 4 was a case of "a few people who create a poor impression.""It didn't reflect well on Salt Lake City, that's for sure," Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News. "On balance, we know there are idiots in every town who can act like that. We saw some of them (Monday) night." Spurs point guard Tony Parker said, "I got a little beer and popcorn in my face, but that's OK."
MISSING MEMO: Utah center Mehmet Okur had a breakout regular season. He averaged 17.6 points and 7.2 rebounds and earned a spot on the All-Star team.
But his offense all but disappeared against the Spurs. Through the first four games Okur averaged only seven points on 26.3 percent shooting from the field. By comparison, Okur averaged 16.8 points per game against the Spurs during the regular season.
So what was different about the Spurs defense on Okur during the playoffs?
Nothing, according to Popovich.
"More than anything, we have been fortunate (Okur hasn't shot well)," Popovich said.Okur went 3-for-8 and scored nine points in Wednesday's loss.
SHORTENED BENCH: Spurs guard Brent Barry didn't play at all on Monday night, and former starting center Francisco Elson saw just 27 seconds of action at the end of the first half as San Antonio's usual 10-man rotation was cut to eight."I just think players get more of a rhythm if so many aren't playing," Popovich explained before Game 5. "Come playoff time, everybody's ready to go and sometimes if you have too many short runs in a game, you don't really get into a rhythm. And by rotating one less big player and one less small player the guys that did play got good minutes." Of course on Wednesday night the Spurs didn't need to shorten their bench. There were plenty of minutes to go around for all of San Antonio's players during its blowout win.
MISC: The Spurs are now 21-7 in games when they have had a chance to close out a playoff series during the Tim Duncan era. ... This was the fourth playoff series between the Spurs and Jazz, but the first one since 1998. The previous three series were all won by Utah, which still leads San Antonio 8-12 in head-to-head postseason games. ... Both Popovich and Utah's Jerry Sloan had 87 postseason coaching wins entering Wednesday night's game. Popovich now is alone in fifth place all-time with 88 playoff victories, trailing only Phil Jackson (179), Pat Riley (171), Larry Brown (100) and Red Auerbach (99).
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