Spurs won’t strain for NBA’s top mark

By Mike Monroe

Goal No. 1 for the Spurs this season has been accomplished: securing the best record in the Western Conference and the corresponding home-court advantage through rounds one, two and three of the playoffs.

With three regular-season games to be played, goal No. 1-A — the best regular-season record in the league — remains reachable, but with slightly less urgency.

The team’s top scorer, guard Manu Ginobili, understands that coach Gregg Popovich now will practice prudence with the workloads of some of the team’s key players now that the West’s top record has been secured. That starts with today’s game against the Jazz at the ATT Center.

“The most important thing was clinching No. 1 in the West,” Ginobili said. “You never know, first, if you are going to make it to the Finals and then if the other (No. 1 Eastern seed) will make it to the Finals. We usually don’t care what happens in the East.

“Now that we are so close, of course we want to get it. The best way to do it is just to concentrate on the next opponent. Just concentrate on Utah. Then we’ll see.”

Point guard Tony Parker won’t fight Popovich if he wants to scale back the playing time for key players, just as long as all players get to suit up and maintain a modicum of pre-playoff rhythm.

He thinks the Spurs would rue losing the home-court edge over presumed Eastern No. 1 seed Chicago were both teams to advance to the NBA Finals.

“I think we should play, all of us,” he said. “We worked hard all season long to have the best record and we still have one game up on Chicago, so I think we should play all three and make sure we have home-court advantage for all the playoffs.

“I just think it helps, especially if you have a Game 7. We went through that in 2005. It’s better to have that game at home, not on the road. You saw what happened last year with the Lakers. It helps when you’re at home.”

The Spurs secured their third NBA title in 2005 by beating the Detroit Pistons in Game 7 at the ATT Center.

The Lakers defeated the Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

THIN MARGIN: The final three games will determine which of the starting guards will finish as the Spurs’ leading scorer. Ginobili and Parker go into tonight’s game separated by just hundredths of a point.

Officially, both players average 17.7 points per game. Ginobili is listed first because his average actually is 17.705, while Parker’s is 17.671 points per game.

MONEY WHISPERS: Though each Spurs player stands to get a substantial cut of the $346,105 the team would get from the NBA playoff pool if they finish with the best record in the league, Ginobili said money won’t be an overriding factor in the final three games.

“Of course, it’s important,” he said, “but when you are so close to accomplishing something that big, I think it’s more important for the main guys to rest and have your legs ready than getting extra money.

“The important thing is to be ready for the playoffs. We’ll see what Pop decides on how we approach the next games.”

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