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Coach: Injuries derailed Spurs

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — In December, when the Spurs were breezing through one of the best starts in NBA history, coach Gregg Popovich laughed off the suggestion they might win 70.

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"We're not the Chicago Bulls," Popovich said then.

By the end, the Spurs didn't even resemble themselves.

Popovich admitted as much Saturday in San Antonio, where the Spurs returned with the infamy of being the fourth No. 1 seed to lose in the first round and the disappointment of wasting a 61-win season near the end of the Tim Duncan era.

Memphis finished off San Antonio in Game 6 on Friday night. It was a stunning upset that starred the more physical Grizzlies manhandling the Spurs' aging frontcourt, including Antonio McDyess, 36, who will likely retire this summer without an NBA championship ring in his 15 seasons.

The Grizzlies, who pocketed the first playoff wins in franchise history, also stifled an offense that San Antonio revved up this season and was among the NBA's best. On both points, Popovich lauded the youthful Grizzlies.

But Popovich said there's no getting around that the Spurs were never the same after Duncan sprained his left ankle March 21 against Golden State, sidelining him four games. Three weeks later, Manu Ginobili sprained his right elbow and played the Grizzlies wearing a bulky brace.

Including the playoffs, San Antonio finished the season 6-12 after Duncan's injury.

"The only real factor that we wish we could have changed is that we really lost our rhythm at the end of the regular season with Timmy going down for all those game followed by Manu," Popovich said. "It's not an excuse. It's a fact that we didn't really go into the playoffs with that rhythm or that mojo."

BOOZER RESTS: Bulls forward Carlos Boozer sat out his second straight practice because of turf toe on his right foot. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Boozer was feeling better but was "not quite ready to go yet." The Bulls meet the Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, with Game 1 Monday in Chicago.

Coach: Injuries derailed Spurs 04/30/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 30, 2011 8:42pm]
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