Gregg Popovich played for the long term, not the win Tuesday

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Be clear about this — the Knicks earned their victory over the Spurs. For the first time seemingly in memory, the Knicks pushed an elite team into their game. The Knicks hit their shots (ones provided by unusually poor defense from the Spurs, but the Knicks hit them). They made the plays. It’s a signature win for a young Knicks team and they should celebrate it.

But at the end of this game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made the move of a wise coach with a veteran team that has some scratching their heads, as Henry Abbott at TrueHoop pointed out.

With 3:10 left in a game in New York, the Spurs down by ten and the game a longshot, but decidedly undecided, Popovich summoned from his bench three players who had not taken off their sweats all night: Chris Quinn, Ime Udoka and Tiago Splitter. They were to complete the Spurs’ comeback — or not, as it turned out — teamed with Matt Bonner and Gary Neal.

Sitting on the Spurs’ bench: Some of the greatest clutch performers in NBA history, including Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. With the best players out there playing, maybe this was about to become three minutes for the ages. The Spurs have come back from bigger deficits in less time.

After this game, the Spurs hopped on a plane and flew to Boston, where they face the Celtics tonight. A back-to-back as games 34 and 35 in a long 82-games season. A regular season which is followed by what really matters — the playoffs.

It comes back to what the Celtics showed last season, going 11-11 in their last 22 but getting rested and healthy for the playoffs — then making a run all the way to Game 7 of the NBA finals. What really matters for veteran teams is taking care of themselves and reaching the playoffs in good condition.

If that means not throwing everything into a longshot at a comeback in early January, then so be it. Fans may not love it, the league may not love it, but it’s the reality in a six-month long regular season.

Rockets were draining threes in the first half against Warriors in Game 6

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The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.

Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.

Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

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Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.

Marcus Smart on Game 7: ‘It’s not going to be pretty’

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Game 7s are not pretty basketball. Everyone is tight, shots clank off the front of the rim, and players tend to think rather than just react, sucking the flow out of the game. It’s a game for grinders.

Marcus Smart is good with that, and he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN the team is preparing for this style.

“It’s not going to be pretty. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. You can’t go out and try to look pretty. You have to be ready for a dogfight. We got to be ready to come up with our nose bloodied. We got to be ready to come out with our mouth bloodied. We have to come out ready to fight.”

If Boston is going to win this game, they will do so with the physical, smart, and unrelenting defense that carried them all season. That’s their grit. Without Kevin Love (out with a concussion) the Celtics have one less scorer to worry about, but things do not necessarily get dramatically easier — LeBron James is going to get his buckets, but can the Celtics keep George Hill, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and the rest of the role players from helping out with big nights of their own.

Which one of these teams is better positioned to win a grinding, sloppy game? Who is willing to dive on the floor and give that little extra effort? A case can be made either way, but Sunday night will decide it.

Report: Warriors’ Patrick McCaw cleared, will be available for Game 6

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We haven’t seen Golden State’s Patrick McCaw on an NBA court since March 31, when he was undercut by Sacramento’s Vince Carter and took an ugly, nasty spill.

McCaw is finally cleared by the team doctors and will be active on Saturday night for Game 6 against Houston, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Golden State Warriors are planning to activate swingman Patrick McCaw for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

McCaw, on paper, would help the Warriors — he’s a 6’5″ switchable defender who can provide some offense in transition. That’s especially true if Andre Iguodala is out for Game 6 (his status is a game-time decision). McCaw played about 17 minutes a night for the Warriors during the regular season.

However, the idea of taking a second-year player who has not been on a court in six weeks and throwing him into Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals — a win-or-go-fishing game for Golden State — is risky, at best. Don’t expect him to get on the court unless this is a blowout.