Tim Duncan will miss San Antonio’s eagerly awaited matchup against Western Conference rivals Golden State on Monday due to a sore knee, the Spurs said on Sunday.
Golden State have an NBA-best 40-4 record this season, with San Antonio just behind at 38-6.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is notoriously careful with his aging players, wanting to ensure the team will be at full strength when the playoffs roll around.
He was fined by the league in November of 2012 for resting four players for a nationally televised game against the Miami Heat.
Duncan, 39, sat out Thursday’s win over the Phoenix Suns to rest, but played Friday against the Lakers.
His absence from the marquee matchup in Oakland, California, will likely mean more court time for David West, Boris Diaw and Boban Marjanovic.
After winning their 13th straight game in Los Angeles on Friday, the Spurs insisted the contest against Golden State was “just another game on the schedule,” in the words of Kawhi Leonard.
But the Warriors are 40-4 after starting the season a record 24-0 — their blistering run overshadowing the Spurs’ march to 38-6 that represents the club’s best through 44 games.
Neither team has lost on its home floor.
Even the pragmatic Popovich knows that it will be hard for his players to maintain a business-as-usual attitude come tip-off.
“There’s no doubt the players will look at it as more than that,” Popovich said. “They can’t help it.”
The Warriors were crowned champions last season but did not have to go through the Spurs in the playoffs.
The 39-year-old Duncan has won five NBA championships and was named league MVP twice