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OAKLAND

The Warriors took care of business Monday night. The business wasn't hard to take care of.

They beat the San Antonio Spurs 116-106. But they didn't beat the real San Antonio Spurs. They beat the San Antonio Spurs Lite.

Tim Duncan didn't play — knee. Tony Parker didn't play — neck. Kawhi Leonard didn't play — knee. Manu Ginobili — he hasn't played in a while. Most of the Spurs' stars didn't play — not motivated.

The Spurs are going to get the second playoff seed in the West, so coach Gregg Popovich settled for rest over exertion against Golden State. He swears he'll play Duncan against the miserable Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night.

"Everyone will play because it's not a back to back," he said before he sent out his junior varsity. "Tonight is what we do. We've done it all year. We've done it for 17 years, done it with Timmy's career from the beginning, well not the very beginning because he was pretty young. Tonight is nothing special or different or unique."

Right here, I should talk about the game, but I want to give you more pre-game Popovich. He is the best coach in the NBA and he sometimes is a little sour — it's as if he prepped for his pregame news briefing by sucking on a lemon or devouring a jar of Vlasic pickles.

Asked if his team is playing well going into the postseason, Popovich said, "We've been playing better most any other year going into the playoffs than this year."

One reporter asked if that concerned him. Popovich gave a look which implied, "That is the dumbest question I ever heard." What he actually said was, "Who cares? The (crappier) the better. Of course, it's a concern. Come on."

Warriors coach Mark Jackson held his own pregame news briefing. Call it the battle of the pregame news briefings.

Jackson on Popovich not playing his good guys: "We're going to take care of our business, to win these games and to close out the season the right way. I certainly understand some of these other teams (read San Antonio) doing things differently. They've earned the right. . . . We've seen this movie before. It's still the San Antonio Spurs. They still have their great coach and a mentality that night in and night out puts them in position to win ballgames. They play hard and they're prepared."

Well, the Spurs weren't THAT prepared. It's hard to be prepared when you're playing your B team.

It just so happens the Houston Rockets lost on Monday night to the sad-sack Phoenix Suns. That means the Warriors are a game up on Houston with one game remaining for each team. The Warriors have a very good chance of grabbing the sixth spot in the West.

If they beat Portland in Portland on Wednesday it's a done deal. If Houston loses to the Lakers Wednesday, it doesn't matter what the Warriors do. So things are looking pretty good for Golden State right now.

Do the Warriors want the sixth spot?

As Sour-Puss Popovich would say, "Come on."

If the Warriors get the sixth spot they almost certainly play Denver in the first round, not easy but not horrendous, either. If the Warriors fall to the seventh spot, they play — get this — San Antonio.

Call me crazy, but you'd have to think in the playoffs Popovich would play Duncan, Parker, Leonard and Ginobili, or as we in the trade call them neck, knee, knee, whatever. And things might be a trifle more trying for the Warriors.

Not that Jackson agreed with the urgency to finish sixth. After the game, someone asked him if he prefers finishing sixth or seventh.

"Whether we play the second seed or the third seed it's going to be a good team that's favored against us," he said. "So we're not caught up into that. We're going to go to Portland. It's a game to finish a season and our mindset is to finish it the right way. We're not chasing anything other than to be playing our best basketball starting the playoffs."

It was a reasonable, even a brave answer. It was also wrong. It makes a big difference which team the Warriors play. Denver has serious injuries, not part-time injuries like the Spurs. The Warriors want to finish sixth but Jackson, who never shows fear or worry, can't say he wants to finish sixth.

Here is Jackson sounding brave and it's a good way to end this column. This comes from Jackson's pregame press conference, and it perfectly captures his mentality.

Someone had mentioned the Warriors are not interested in sending a message to the rest of the league. It was an odd assertion and Jackson, who rarely reacts, raised his eyebrows and sat back in his chair.

"I think we've sent a message all year long," he said in a louder-than-usual voice, "that we are a playoff basketball team, that we are a no-excuse basketball team, that we are a dangerous basketball team, that we are excited about still being relevant this time of year and looking forward to postseason play."

The Warriors certainly deserve to be excited and they intend to take care of business, although, starting in a few days, the business will be so much harder to take care of.

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For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.