Duncan’s regular season numbers were down almost virtually across the board (minutes, points per game rebounds, assists, blocks), as he struggled with a multitude of nagging injuries. Gregg Popovich had to sit him out during the year just to make sure he’d have enough left in the tank for the Spurs’ Playoff run.
Last night in Dallas, with his team’s back against the wall, he proved all the doubters wrong. Duncan slapped up a 25/17 game on the Mavs, evening up the series along the way. It was a loud reminder that he’s still the best power forward in the game.
NBA.com captured the reaction from both Tim and his teammates following the vintage performance:
Meet Tim Duncan. Again. Duncan won’t take credit for the 102-88 punch to the Mavericks’ gut Wednesday night just as he didn’t blame many of his teammates for the Game 1 setback. That San Antonio is in position to take control of this first-round series with two at the AT&T Center doesn’t land fully on No. 21′s wide shoulders.
Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker didn’t disappoint for the second straight game. Neither did Gregg Popovich’s dog pound, starting with Richard Jefferson. But when Dallas sliced an 18-point lead to five with nearly seven minutes left, the ball found its way into Duncan’s hands time and again. We’ve always trusted him,” Ginobili said.
Duncan’s roll call of signature moments following the Mavericks’ run justify that decade-plus of trust. Five-foot jump hook. Ten-foot jumper. Driving 9-footer. Defensive rebound. Jumper from 11 feet. Suddenly, the Spurs were back up 13 points with 3 1/2 minutes left in an enemy building drained dry. “I just got some shots to go,” Duncan said after authoring a vintage 25-point, 17-rebound outing. “I don’t know any other way to put it.”
There had been increased talk recently — in Duncan’s own town, even — that Tim’s last tour of duty in the NBA is fast approaching. That the injuries will soon just be too much for him to overcome, and that he won’t have anything left to prove.
Last night, Duncan showed that there’s plenty left in the tank, and talk of his — and by extension, the Spurs’ — upcoming demise has been somewhat exaggerated.