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Pregame – Doc, Pop Have Differing Approaches to Final Weeks

Two of the older teams in the league are set to square off tonight in TD Garden. Although they have many similarities, most notably that age factor, they still possess several key differences.

The most important difference between the two squads is how they’re approaching the remainder of the regular season, which is about three weeks long. Gregg Popovich, head coach of the Spurs, said before the game that he isn’t very focused on wins and losses at this point in the season.

“Going down the stretch here, we’re a lot more concerned with health and energy than we are wins and losses,” said Popovich.

That’s a somewhat shocking statement when you consider the fact that San Antonio is absolutely in contention for the top seed in the Western Conference. It trails Oklahoma City by just two games heading into tonight’s game.

It’s not as shocking when you consider it came from the lips of Popovich. He is one of the smartest coaches in this league and most definitely knows what he’s doing.

The same can be said for Doc Rivers, but Boston’s head coach isn’t exactly in the same boat as Popovich. The Spurs have already won seven more games than the Celtics have this season. For that reason, Boston is still fighting for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and is competing to avoid Chicago and Miami in the first round.

Rivers understands where Popovich is coming from, but his thoughts on his team are a bit different than those of San Antonio’s coach. Rivers has to worry about his team’s wins and losses, but he does still value the health factor.

“Rest is a little overrated to me. I think if I sat out Kevin tonight he would run five miles on the treadmill and then lift and then go shoot,” said Rivers. “But I think health is key. That’s the one, for me, that if I thought about playing a guy that was banged up and it might make injuries linger for the playoffs, that’s a ‘sit (him) guy,’ ”

No one is a ‘sit him guy’ tonight for either team. Both are expected to have all of their active players on the floor, including Ray Allen. Allen will be returning to the lineup after missing six games with a sore right ankle. The Spurs will also go with their regular lineup despite playing in the second night of a back-to-back.

Who would want it any other way? Both teams are healthy, so let’s see the two titans slug it out tonight on the parquet.

- Marc D'Amico