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The San Antonio Spurs have played four games in five nights on two occasions this season. Both times, the fourth game has come on the road against a top-two seed in the Eastern Conference. Both times, the Spurs have lost—once by five points and once by 17 points. Only one of those defeats featured Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard in the starting lineup, with Manu Ginobili coming off the bench.
Can you guess which game was which?
Here's a hint: the 100-83 blowout loss came at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks on Thursday night.
And all of San Antonio's principals played.
The closer result, you may recall, came on Nov. 29, when Popovich sent four of his core players home ahead of a nationally-televised tilt opposite the Miami Heat and incurred the wrath of David Stern. Even without their Big Three on hand, the Spurs nearly upended the defending champions on their home court.
My point? That Pop was right...and, by extension, that Stern was wrong.
Pop played the odds back in November. He knew that his Spurs would have a tough time winning in Miami on the second night of a second back-to-back. He also knew that he'd rather sit his stars to keep them fresh for later than strain them against a well-rested opponent, all the while giving his reserves a chance to shine.
The fact that San Antonio nearly emerged victorious from that game was vindication enough for Pop's decision. The fact that the Spurs were run out of the building when Pop let his biggest boys play only validates that thinking further and makes Stern look even dumber for having punished him in the first place.
Small consolation for such a disappointing defeat.