Spurs’ Duncan standing out in postseason
Salt Lake City ? When Tim Duncan jumped to catch a lob pass, then realized the ball wasn’t going to make it to him, he knew right away that he was in trouble.
Duncan does a lot of things well, but an acrobatic, mid-air adjustment isn’t usually among them.
Yet this time, in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, Duncan pulled it off. He reached out his long arms to make the catch, then flicked the ball backward over his head and into the basket, all in one move.
“I was impressed with myself, honestly,” Duncan said Thursday.
The way things have gone for Duncan this postseason, the play shouldn’t have been too surprising. Everything seems to be easy for him – or, at least, he’s sure able to make it look that way.
No longer bothered by the foot problem that limited him in recent years, and a bit refreshed by San Antonio’s early exit last postseason, Duncan is having one of his best playoff runs.
While he’s right around his career playoff averages in points and rebounds, the spectacular part is his consistency: at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in 11 straight games. It’s the longest streak since Shaquille O’Neal had 13 in a row in 2004, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It’s nothing you pay attention to,” Duncan said. “You’re playing and the opportunities are there. As I said, I feel good right now, I feel healthy right now. On top of putting those kinds of numbers up, we’re winning games and winning series and that’s all that matters.”
San Antonio is 9-2 during Duncan’s streak and holds a 2-0 lead over the Utah Jazz in the conference finals, with Game 3 in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.
Already considered among the best big men ever, Duncan still stands out among the handful of others in that group. He’s as good a defender as he is a scorer, and he’s an even better teammate. He’s still clearly the team’s leader but not a self promoter.
“He’s the kind of guy that you would really want a lot of players to be like,” Spurs forward Bruce Bowen said. “He’s strictly business about getting the job done. And that’s the focus he has.”
In the series opener, Duncan was ahead of everyone on a fast break, but was waiting for the ball. He never got it, though, because the pass was nowhere near him. He simply gestured that it was his fault for being in the wrong place, even if that hardly seemed the case.
“Not a lot of guys like that responsibility of ‘I made a mistake,”‘ said Utah coach Jerry Sloan, who noted Duncan’s unselfishness on that play after the game.
Also, in the locker room before Game 2, a replay of the previous game was showing. Duncan watched casually, then his eyes widened as if he’d just been called for a foul, only he was smiling, too. He hurried to the TV, grabbed the remote control and repeatedly slowed the tape for a frame-by-frame showing of backup point guard Jacque Vaughn trying in vain to box out a big man, drawing good-natured laughs all around.
“It’s great that Timmy doesn’t need a whole lot of strokes, if any,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He loves playing the game, he loves his teammates and that kind of thing. … Obviously everything begins and ends with him. “