Spurs finish Blazers with time to rest

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SAN ANTONIO -- No Tony Parker, no problem for the San Antonio Spurs.

Well, at least not Wednesday night, when the NBA's most consistent contending franchise slammed the door on the inexperienced Portland Trail Blazers despite Parker playing only 10 scoreless minutes, sitting out the entire second half to nurse a tight left hamstring.

Impressive as it was to see the Spurs end this Western Conference semifinals series in such emphatic fashion with their lone All-Star in the AT&T Center locker room, the 104-82 Game 5 rout was important because it maximizes Parker's chances of being ready to go when San Antonio's competition kicks up a notch in the next series.

The Spurs, who beat the Blazers by double-digits in all four of their wins in this series, are far too savvy to say whether they'd prefer to see the Oklahoma City Thunder or Los Angeles Clippers in the conference finals. But San Antonio certainly wouldn't mind if the OKC-LA series went the full seven games.

A team with a core of a 38-year-old power forward, a 36-year-old sixth man and a point guard who turns 32 this weekend needs all the rest it can get, particularly after the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks surprisingly pushed the Spurs to seven games in the first round.

"It takes a toll on everybody," said Tim Duncan, the power forward who has been the focal point of the Spurs' four championship teams. "You want to get to the end, you've got to go through it. We'll use this time to rest up and work on our bodies. Hopefully, when that next series comes around, we'll be refreshed. It's good to have a couple of days in there because it has been bang, bang, bang so far."

The hope for Parker is that he left the floor early enough to prevent a tight hamstring from becoming an injury that nags him for the rest of the playoffs.

Coach Gregg Popovich didn't have much to say on the subject -- "I don't know anything about it" -- and Parker had left the locker room by the time the media made its way in after the game. However, several Spurs expressed cautious optimism that the extra days of rest would allow the engine of the San Antonio offense to be fully revved up for the next round.

"We hope for him to be back and healthy," said Manu Ginobili, who could use the time off to rediscover his shooting touch after going 14-of-49 from the floor in this series. "It is too early to tell. He has an MRI tomorrow. I don't know what's going to happen.

"If we want to have a chance to make it to the Finals, we need him healthy."

It'd certainly be preferable to have a full-speed version of Parker, who struggled in the last two games of the Spurs' NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat last season while dealing with a mild strain of his right hamstring. But it'd be silly to dismiss the Spurs regardless of Parker's MRI results.

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