With the top seed in the Western Conference locked up, the San Antonio Spurs decided resting their three best players was more important than trying to make a run at the league's top seed.
Fortunately for them, they remain in contention thanks to terrific efforts from a pair of their reserves.
Needing a 15th consecutive victory over the Golden State Warriors and an unlikely loss from the East's best team to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, visiting San Antonio will again be without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and coach Gregg Popovich on Thursday night.
The Spurs (49-16) enter the last day of the regular season tied with Chicago for the league's best record. With the Bulls owning the tiebreaker, San Antonio needs a win and a Chicago loss to Cleveland to lock up the NBA's top overall spot.
Despite Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Popovich all having been sent home earlier in the day, the Spurs managed to pull out a 110-106 road victory over Phoenix on Wednesday. Patty Mills posted a career-high 27 points and Tiago Splitter scored 26 for the Spurs, winners of nine straight and 23 of their last 26.
"It's one of those funny situations, end of the season and resting guys," Mills said. "As crazy as it is, it does make a lot of sense. I thought for the main guys to go back and recharge the batteries before the playoffs, that's a chance to give the other guys a great opportunity."
Since falling 130-121 in overtime at Golden State on Jan. 7, 2008, San Antonio has outscored the Warriors by an average of 17.2 points during its 14-game winning streak in the series. San Antonio cruised to a 120-99 win at Oracle Arena during the most recent meeting April 16.
Two nights after snapping an eight-game skid with a 93-88 win at Minnesota, the Warriors got back to their losing ways during Tuesday's 83-81 defeat to New Orleans. Rookie forward Chris Wright was called for goaltending with just two seconds remaining as Golden State fell to 5-21 over its last 26 games.
"I thought it was a layup that possibly he was going to make anyway, but you never know," Wright said. "I just tried to get the block on the last play and help my team anyway I could. It's heartbreaking still, even though it's the (second-to-last) game of the season, I really hate losing."
Golden State (23-42) owns the eighth-worst record in the league but has to finish in the bottom seven to keep its protected 2012 first-round pick - acquired by Utah in a previous trade. If the Warriors lose Thursday, they are guaranteed to finish tied with either New Jersey (22-43) or Toronto (22-43) - who square off in their season finale - for the league's seventh-worst record. The NBA would then hold a drawing Friday to determine draft position.
After sitting out the last seven games, David Lee will have surgery Thursday to repair a torn abdominal muscle. Lee was averaging team highs of 20.1 points and 9.6 rebounds.
Stephen Curry, who appeared in just 26 games this season, underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle Wednesday. Recently acquired Andrew Bogut is scheduled to go under the knife Friday for his fractured left ankle.