(Reuters) - The San Antonio Spurs chose to rest their standouts on Friday night but plan to return to full strength when they face the record-challenging Golden State Warriors in two days.
Coach Gregg Popovich, known for pacing his teams throughout the marathon regular season and preserving key players when possible, sat LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Boris Diaw as the Spurs lost to the Denver Nuggets 102-98. The defeat was of little consequence to San Antonio (65-14) who has already clinched the second seed in the Western Conference.
"We're locked into the position we're in, so (Popovich is) going to do what he's always done and make sure we are fresh and healthy for the start of the playoffs and on through," Spurs veteran Tim Duncan told reporters. But with Golden State set to visit San Antonio on Sunday, something more will be on the line.
The Warriors (70-9) need to win their final three games to surpass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls who finished 72-10 for the best ever regular season mark. The Spurs, who lost to Golden State on Thursday, are also shooting for a bit of history as they are a perfect 39-0 at home and have a chance to top the 1985-86 Boston Celtics who were a record 40-1 at home.
"I think (Sunday vs. Golden State) is important from the aspect as far as us needing to work on some things,” said San Antonio guard Kevin Martin.
"We have a great plan going forward to be full strength for the playoffs, and that's the most important thing."
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)