Waiting game isn’t fun for winners of 14 straight

The Spurs returned from Salt Lake City early Tuesday morning with a ticket to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs in hand, and more time to kill than they know what to do with.

For guard Danny Green, the space between the Spurs’ first-round sweep of Utah and the start of the conference semifinals — whenever that is — has already been filled with an ample to-do list.

“A lot of grocery shopping, a lot of cleaning the house, a lot of reading, video games,” Green said.

In between catching up on missed chores, Green and the rest of the Spurs will keep an eye on Memphis’ first-round series with the Los Angeles Clippers.

They don’t seem to care which team wins it, so long as it happens as quickly as possible.

Rest is nice. But when you’ve won 14 games in a row, so is staying locked in and on a roll.

“I don’t care if it’s a week off or four days,” captain Tim Duncan said. “You’re going to lose your rhythm a little bit. It’s probably going to take a quarter or two to knock that rust off once we start playing again.”

The Clippers lead their series 3-1 with a chance to close out the Grizzlies tonight at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. If that happens, the top-seeded Spurs could host the fifth-seeded Clippers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals as soon as Saturday.

It will take some work, but if Memphis is able to push the Clippers to seven games, the Spurs wouldn’t return to the floor until at least Tuesday.

“When you’re on a roll, you want to start again as soon as possible,” said Tony Parker, who averaged 21.5 points and 6.5 assists against the Jazz.

The Spurs haven’t lost since April 11, when the Los Angeles Lakers took a 98-84 win at the ATT Center. By the time they take the floor again, it will have been more than a month since they last tasted defeat.

They are on the second-longest winning streak of the coach Gregg Popovich era, surpassed only by the 2003-04 team that won 17 straight before losing to the Lakers in the conference semifinals.

With this year’s playoff itinerary now in the hands of the likes of Chris Paul and Rudy Gay, the Spurs intend to look on the bright side of their forced hiatus.

The series against the Jazz was more bruising than the 4-0 tally shows, and players admit some time to recharge might be a good thing.

“A lot of guys are bumped and bruised all over the place,” Duncan said. “We’re going to use this time to rest up and at the same time try not to lose our rhythm.”

In search of that sweet spot, Popovich scheduled every-other-day practices for the rest of the week. He will work his team out today and Friday, taking Tuesday and Thursday off.

In the meantime, Popovich and his staff have begun to pull film on the Clippers and Grizzlies and formulate the skeleton of a game plan for each.

If the Spurs would prefer a rematch with Memphis, the team that ambushed them from the No. 8 slot last year, they aren’t saying.

“We have to get ourselves ready to play,” Popovich said. “Those are two great teams, and it will be tough either way.”

Either opponent would bring back a clutch memory for Spurs guard Gary Neal.

His last-second 3-pointer in Game 5 last year helped the Spurs briefly extend their fruitless series against Memphis.

His overtime-inducing triple Feb. 18 in L.A. — unofficially assisted by Paul — was the highlight of one of the Spurs’ most stirring victories this season.

“I hope we don’t need my clutch gene this time around,” Neal said.

For now, all the Spurs can do is wait — for the Clippers to finish off the Grizzlies, or the Grizzlies to finish off a comeback.

And sometimes, that can be the hardest part.


Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN

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