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Spurs relieved to finally know Clippers are their next foe

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Associated Press
5/13/2012 9:33:38 PM
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SAN ANTONIO -- Six days later, the San Antonio Spurs finally know who they're playing next.

Confined to practices and film sessions for the past week -- and growing increasingly antsy in the meantime -- the Spurs expressed relief Sunday after watching the Los Angeles Clippers knock out Memphis in the NBA's last first-round playoff series to finish up and finally lock down their matchup for the Western Conference semifinals.

Game 1 on Tuesday night will be the first game in eight days for the Spurs. The Clippers, whose battered and bruised include Chris Paul and Blake Griffin following a physical seven-game series with the Grizzlies, will be playing their sixth game in 11 days.

They'll get no sympathy from San Antonio.

"We earned ourselves this break," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said Sunday. "Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't."

Coach Gregg Popovich, who spent the week emphasizing conditioning and not losing the rhythm built during their current 14-game winning streak, is ready to find out one way or the other.

"It drives you a little crazy preparing for two teams at once. One day you think somebody's going to win, and then it changes, and then it goes back and forth," Popovich said. "Those guys really went after each other and played a great series. At least we know now who we're playing."

San Antonio's extended layoff between series, while unusual, is hardly unprecedented. The Dallas Mavericks waited nine days last season for Oklahoma City to meet them in the conference finals on their way to their first NBA championship. In 2004, the Indiana Pacers went 11 games between the first round and the semifinals.

The All-Star break afforded the Spurs just six days of rest in the compressed, lockout-shortened season. Eight days allowed the Spurs to work in their most intense practices since training camp -- something Popovich often expressed regret about missing during the season -- but the rest was mostly a bonus after emerging from a four-game sweep of Utah with hardly a scratch on them.

The Clippers, on the other hand, could probably sure go for a week off right now.

Winning only the third playoff series in the 41-year history of the franchise didn't come easy for the Clippers. Caron Butler broke his left hand, Mo Williams played with fingers on his right hand padded and Paul is nagged by a strained hip flexor. Griffin played less than two minutes of the fourth quarter in Game 7 on Sunday because of a sprained left knee.

Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said his leading scorer's knee tightened up as the game wore on. Griffin said afterward that all he needs is a break -- no matter how short.

"I'm not going to sit out. It's a matter of rest," Griffin said. "We basically have a day and half now.. The last two games, we haven't had as much rest as we're about to have now. Hopefully, this rest helps somehow. I'll be ready to go by Tuesday."

Clippers guard Randy Foye looked forward to celebrating the first-round victory on the flight to Texas but said "we'll have our iPads out and have the game plan for San Antonio on there" by the time they land.

The Spurs have been building two scouting reports for a week. They're just glad to finally settle on one.

"You can't prepare for nobody," Ginobili said. "At this point in the season, you want to know who you're going to face. Now we know."

Manu Ginobili (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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