SAN ANTONIO (AP) – The San Antonio Spurs are trying to balance the pluses and the minuses of their eight-day layoff before the start of the NBA Finals.

They want the benefit of a break to heal bodies after their high-energy series against the Phoenix Suns, but they’ve been around long enough to know that too much rest can result in rust. “Sometimes relaxing is not that good for a long period. … It probably would have been better to play after five days,” Manu Ginobili, a three-year veteran making his second trip to the championship series, said Saturday.

But, Ginobili added, the anticipation of playing for the NBA title will keep the Spurs from getting too comfortable before Game 1 of the Finals on Thursday.

“The whole basketball world is watching you, so you get excited and anxious, that’s for sure,” said Ginobili, who led Argentina to an Olympic gold medal in Athens. “We want that championship really bad, and we’re going to be professional and we’re going to take care of things.”

The Spurs took two days off after eliminating the Suns on Wednesday night in Phoenix. The five-game series proved that the Spurs can keep pace with the league’s best offensive team – they averaged 108.2 points in the Western Conference finals, about 12 points more than their regular-season average.

But San Antonio’s success is built on its team-oriented defense, which wasn’t at its best in the series against the Suns. Phoenix’s 103-point average was about 15 more than the Spurs typically allow, and San Antonio had no defensive answer for Amare Stoudemire, who scored 30 or more in each game.

The Spurs got back to basics during a two-hour practice Saturday while waiting to find out whether they’ll play Miami or Detroit in the Finals. They expect to step up the intensity during Sunday’s practice.

“Just try to stay in shape, don’t lose the rhythm, take some shots, run a little bit, try to learn the plays again,” said Tony Parker, who hit three key second-half shots in Wednesday’s clincher. “It’s the most important time of the year and we’re going to focus – you have to. I think everybody understands that on our team.”

One thing they’re not doing yet is tailoring their preparations to either the Heat or the Pistons.

“Teams are more concerned about what they do than what other teams do, and that’s our main focus,” said coach Gregg Popovich. “If you don’t execute what you do very well, it doesn’t matter – you are not going to play well.”

The long layoff will allow the Spurs to recover from their various aches and pains and heavy legs after nonstop running in the Phoenix series. Ginobili has some bumps and bruises, and Tim Duncan’s ankles remain tender.

Asked how a team keeps its edge during a long break, Popovich said he doesn’t know.

“The team will just do the best job it can of trying to balance conditioning and being sharp,” he said. “And then you go play.”

AP-ES-06-04-05 1725EDT

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