Splitter practices for Spurs, unclear if he can play vs Clippers in playoff opener

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SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter participated in practice Friday, but the team was unsure if he will play in Sunday night's playoff series opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Splitter missed the final six games of the regular season because of tightness in his right calf. He missed over a month earlier this season after straining his right calf.

Coach Gregg Popovich said Splitter would likely have played April 12 against Phoenix had it been a playoff game. He wasn't as forthcoming Friday.

"I don't deal in levels of 'happy' and 'optimistic' and 'sad' and 'concerned' and all that sort of thing," Popovich said. "If he plays, he plays . but he's progressing."

The Spurs will not practice Saturday, but will participate in a shootaround prior to Sunday's game at the Staples Center. Splitter's availability will likely be determined just prior to tipoff.

"We're going to need him, especially in that series," guard Tony Parker said. "We didn't do very much (today in practice), so it's hard to say if he's going to be 100 percent."

The Spurs' recent 21-4 run, which included 11 straight victories, began when Splitter rejoined the starting lineup. The 6-foot-11 Brazilian averaged just 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 52 games this season, but his passing and low-post scoring improved the team's ball movement.

"He knows where to be, when to roll (and) he sets good screens," Manu Ginobili said. "He's just a good player. He can pass, he can finish; that's what we are all about."

If nothing else, the Spurs may need Splitter's fouls to give should they decide to intentionally hack Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, as they have in the past.

Jordan was 10 of 28 on free throws against San Antonio on Feb. 19, but the Clippers held on for a 119-114 victory to earn a split of the season series.

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