Thanks to Utah, Spurs’ magic number down 2

Hours after the Spurs polished off a 97-90 win over Atlanta on Tuesday night, the Utah Jazz provided them more good news on the opposite coast.

Thanks to Utah’s 86-85 victory over the Lakers at Staples Center, the Spurs are now 3 1/2 games up on Los Angeles with four to play, their magic number to clinch the Western Conference’s top seed winnowed to two games. Without any further assistance from the Lakers, the Spurs could sew things up on their upcoming homestand that begins Wednesday against Sacramento and concludes Saturday against the same Jazz who just won in Los Angeles.

Neither opponent is in playoff contention, but as the Jazz proved Tuesday, sometimes teams with nothing to play for play like there’s nothing to lose.

Asked after beating Atlanta about the importance of securing the No. 1 seed, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich shrugged.

“Everybody talks about it every year,” he said. “We’ve had it and won and had it and lost. The team best usually ends up winning.”

Still, the Spurs certainly won’t turn down home-court advantage through the Western Conference bracket, or the the prospect of avoiding both the Lakers and Mavericks until at least the conference finals.

As recently as Sunday, as the Spurs’ lead in the conference dipped to just 1 1/2 games over the Lakers, it appeared certain Kobe Bryant and Co. would overtake them. A scheduled April 12 visit to the Staples Center loomed large.

Now, the Spurs have a chance to wrap up seeding by the end of the week, which would allow Popovich to rest any players who need it on the season-ending trip to Los Angeles and Phoenix.

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