Resting key players last week led to a hefty fine for the San Antonio Spurs.
This time, they're not likely to draw that kind of attention from the commissioner.
Injuries may cause the Spurs to be without as many as four players as they go for a seventh win in eight tries Wednesday night against the sputtering Milwaukee Bucks.
Coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs (14-4) drew national attention and the ire of commissioner David Stern when they sent four starters home ahead of a nationally televised 105-100 loss at Miami on Thursday, which capped a six-game, nine-day road trip. Stern issued a statement apologizing to fans and later fined San Antonio $250,000.
The rest may have helped the Spurs to Saturday's 99-95 overtime win against Southwest Division rival Memphis. Tony Parker had 30 points while Tim Duncan scored a season-high 27 with 15 rebounds after both were rested two days earlier with Manu Ginobili and Danny Green.
Now, resting players may not be optional for Popovich.
San Antonio is dealing with injuries to Green (left hamstring), Gary Neal (Achilles), Kawhi Leonard (right knee) and Stephen Jackson (finger). Green, averaging 9.8 points, exited Saturday's victory after failing to register a point while missing seven field-goal attempts in 19 minutes.
Neal, scoring 11.1 points per game, is averaging 17.3 over the past three contests.
"Pretty concerned about Wednesday," Popovich said. "We'll see what the status is with Gary and Danny. We've played (Boris Diaw) at (small forward) on the road trip, so we could not overplay some people. That'll probably continue."
Diaw is known for his aggressive defensive play and is only averaging 5.8 points. However, he scored 12 with six rebounds as a starter against the Heat before returning to the bench Saturday and contributing three points.
"We're very lucky that we have a very deep team," Ginobili said. "Of course, missing three of our small forwards is hard, but hopefully we're going to be able to mask it."
Playing at home may also help since the Spurs have won seven of the last nine meetings when the Bucks (8-8) visit. Ginobili hit a 17-foot, fade-away buzzer beater to give the Spurs a 92-90 victory in the most recent matchup in San Antonio on Dec. 15, 2010.
With Ginobili out due to a broken hand, San Antonio fell 106-103 at Milwaukee on Jan. 10 in the only matchup last season.
The Bucks may get another chance to capitalize on absences for the Spurs after losing for the sixth time in eight games Monday, 102-81 at New Orleans.
"When we're really moving the ball around, we're really hard to guard," coach Scott Skiles said. "When we start dribbling too much, we get in trouble."
Milwaukee relies heavily on guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, who lead the team with averages of 18.6 and 17.0 points, respectively.
"Those guys can get hot and take over a game," Neal said. "We know that going in. We're just going to stay focused defensively and hope they have a bad game."
Ellis is averaging 27.4 points over his last nine games against the Spurs, but they all ended in losses with Golden State. He had 38 points while shooting 15 of 30 from the floor and added seven assists in a 101-95 defeat Jan. 4, two months before being traded to Milwaukee.
Jennings, who had a team-high 25 points Monday, scored 15 with 11 assists against San Antonio last season, with four of those points coming in the final minutes to put the Bucks ahead for good.
The Associated Press News Service
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