Spurs (60-18) vs. Mavericks (32-46)
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dallas
Season series: Spurs lead 2-1
Last meeting: Mavs 105, Spurs 101, Jan. 29, AT&T Center
Spurs' last game: Lost to Los Angeles Lakers 102-95, Wednesday, AT&T Center
Mavs' last game: Lost to Clippers 112-101, Wednesday, Los Angeles
Spurs' last 10 games: 8-2
Mavs' last 10 games: 3-7, lost last two
Notable: Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge (rest), Pau Gasol (rest), Manu Ginobili (right quad contusion), Danny Green (left quad contusion), Kawhi Leonard (rest) and Dejounte Murray (left groin) will not play in Friday night's game.
SAN ANTONIO – Considering the number of empty saddles the Spurs will have in their ranks, Friday night's late-season game in Dallas against the lottery-bound Mavericks could pass for an exhibition.
The Silver and Black, who have clinched the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, will face their Interstate 35 rivals without six players, including starters LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Coach Gregg Popovich is giving Aldridge, Leonard and key reserve Pau Gasol the night off, and Green (left quad contusion), Manu Ginobili (right quad contusion) and Dejounte Murray (left groin) are sidelined with nagging injuries.
Point guard Tony Parker and center Dewayne Dedmon are the only regular starters who will play against the Mavs.
While the Spurs (60-18) focus on staying sharp with the end of the NBA regular season less than a week away, the Mavs (32-46) are making vacation plans.
“It’s going to be a long four games,” Parker said. “But you have to go through that. We’ll see what Pop does. It’s going to be long. You have to stay in rhythm and stay focused and try to keep good habits. You don’t want to start playing bad headed into the playoffs.”
The Spurs would play the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round if the postseason started Friday. Memphis is seventh in the Western Conference standings, three games ahead of Portland. Both teams have three games left.
Friday’s game will be the second in a row against a lottery team for the Silver and Black, who lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 102-95 Wednesday night at the AT&T Center. Still, the Spurs have matched the franchise’s second-best record ever through 78 games.
San Antonio won the first two meetings against Dallas this season before the Mavs took the third game 105-101 on Jan. 29 at the AT&T Center.
Friday’s game will be the third of four in five nights for the Spurs, who host the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. The big question heading into the team’s second back-to-back of the week was whether Popovich would rest most of his starters on Friday or Saturday.
Aldridge, Leonard and key reserve Patty Mills all sat out the fourth quarter in the loss to the Lakers, and Parker was pulled with 6:55 left in the third period.
“Pretty sure I’m going to keep playing games,” Leonard said. “Don’t want to fall out of rhythm, but it’s up to him (Popovich).”
Leonard, a two-time All-Star forward, is averaging 25.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals in his sixth season with the Spurs.
San Antonio’s backups got extended playing time against the Lakers and made the most of it. Trailing by 26 points in the first two minutes of the second quarter, the Spurs whittled the deficit to 12 by halftime and tied the score at 76 in the first minute of the fourth period. But they couldn’t overtake the Lakers, who led for the entire game.
One of the bright spots in the Spurs’ loss was the play of rookie forward Davis Bertans, who finished with eight points and nailed two 3-pointers that helped get the Silver and Black to within five (100-95) with 1:19 left. He missed a third 3-pointer with 55.7 remaining that would have cut the Lakers’ lead to 100-98.
“The third shot, I guess, might have been a little bit rushed,” Bertans said. “But at the same time, in the past if I hit two in a row, in my head the next one is going to go down for sure.”
Three of the Spurs’ last four games are against teams that would make the playoffs if the postseason started Friday. The Clippers, the Silver and Black’s opponent in their regular-season home finale Saturday, are 48-31 and fifth in the West standings.
The Spurs play at Portland (39-40) on Monday and end the regular season at Utah (48-30) on Wednesday. Utah and Portland are fourth and eighth, respectively, in the West. The top eight teams in each of the NBA’s two conferences advance to the playoffs.
“We’re going to be playing some teams that are playing for seeding,” Gasol said. “The Clippers, Utah playing for four or five (seed), and Portland just trying to get in. So I think those teams are going to approach those games as a playoff game, and we have to utilize those opportunities to meet that intensity and approach it the same way.”
Next up for the Spurs after Friday’s game: vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, AT&T Center.
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