With such a tight race for every seed in the Western Conference playoffs, several teams figure to enter the postseason with momentum.
But can momentum be overstated come playoff time?
“If you had a choice, you'd say, ‘Yes, I'd like momentum.' If you had a choice you'd say, ‘Yes, I'd like to be in first.' But neither one is mandatory,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said before his team's 100-88 loss to the Thunder on Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“People have won championships with the best record, and not the best record, and all that. You certainly don't want to go into the playoffs playing like a dog.”
OKC coach Scott Brooks said: “I think it's more important to be healthy. You cannot be healthy and it's going to be hard to win in the playoffs, let alone it's hard to win in the regular season. You see teams that don't have their health and they don't win as many games as they're expected to win.”
NO MANU OR JACKSON
Manu Ginobili, who will be out 3-4 weeks with a hamstring injury, missed his third game against OKC this season on Thursday. Also out for San Antonio was forward Stephen Jackson, who usually draws the unenviable task of defending three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant.
“We need him (Jackson) against people like Kevin,” Popovich said. “He's got a good physicality about him, and he knows how to play that way. It's a good combination with he and Kawhi (Leonard) trying to guard Kevin — emphasize try.”
Thursday was San Antonio's fourth game in five nights, and Popovich frequently has juggled his lineup this season to offset injuries and offer rest when necessary.
Asked if he has maneuvered his lineup to be at full-strength specifically against the Thunder, Popovich said: “It's never about one game. It always, with us, about managing the minutes like we've done for a very, very long time. This is a little bit different, because at this point in the season, to be honest, it was pretty disappointing to have Manu go down this late because it changes a lot of what we were doing, were planning to do and all that sort of thing.
“So we got a little bit discombobulated with his injury and kind of threw us back a bit because we were in the tail end of a plan we had put together. It changed things, but things happen. It's unfortunate.”
With 25 points against the Spurs, Durant's season scoring average is now 28.293.
New York's Carmelo Anthony did not play Thursday and his average remains at 28.115.
Anthony and the Knicks visit Chesapeake Energy Arena for a noon game Sunday.
Seated in the front row across from the Thunder bench was two-time Emmy Award winner William H. Macy. … Actress Holly Robinson Peete was in attendance. … OKC is 33-5 (. 868) at home and 23-2 (. 920) at home against Western Conference teams. … The Thunder is 4-3 in Thursday games on TNT. … In the first quarter, the Thunder had no turnovers and the Spurs had no offensive rebounds. … OKC outscored San Antonio 19-3 in fast-break points.
Popovich on whether the Thunder is as good a team after trading sixth man James Harden on Oct. 27: “I'm not going to evaluate and say whether they're as good, or better, or worse, or anything like that. They're a championship-caliber team and they're capable of winning a championship, and that's what's important.”
BY JOHN ROHDE