SAN ANTONIO Tim Duncan’s resume includes two league MVP awards, three NBA Finals MVPs and four championships. He showed Monday, though, that he’s hardly content.
Coming off a poor performance Sunday in Miami, when he went 3 of 13 from the field, Duncan scored 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to help the Spurs to a 113-77 victory in Game 3. Although his final line wasn’t overwhelming, Duncan’s aggressive play on offense in the first half and defense in the second half helped set a tone that led to him spending the fourth quarter in comfortable fashion – on the bench resting.
“Just because he’s a little older doesn’t mean he’s lost his competitiveness or his professional will to compete,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s not going to stop.”
Seeking to make up for a game in which he played “awfully” – his own description -- Duncan wasted no time making his presence felt, hitting a running 6-foot jumper 20 seconds into the game. He finished the first half with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, never taking a shot further than 8 feet from the basket. By asserting himself inside against the shorter Udonis Haslem, Duncan also helped to free Gary Neal for open outside shots. Neal scored 14 points in the half, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers.
After a strong offensive showing in the first half, Duncan was content to defer to the Spurs’ hot 3-point shooters in the second half -- while setting the tone on defense. On back-to-back possessions, he showed why he earned Second Team All-Defense honors this season.
With 8:50 left, Dwyane Wade faked a shot against Duncan, hoping to draw the big man off his feet. It’s the type of ball fake Wade has made throughout his career, repeatedly drawing fouls and earning trips to the free-throw line. But Duncan showed why he’s headed for the Hall of Fame – not biting, leading Wade to drop the ball and, after he was the first to touch it again, get called for traveling. On Miami’s next possession, Game 3 hero Mario Chalmers drove to basket against the Spurs before Duncan erased the shot. The Duncan made the type of play that wins championships – gathering the ball before it went out of bounds, collecting himself and passing to a teammate. That led to a Danny Green layup attempt – he was fouled and made two free throws – and 59-46 Spurs lead.
“I’m just trying to do whatever I can,” Duncan said. “I didn’t feel like I have great rhythm right now. I got some shots to fall, a couple of shots, but I’m missing a lot of easy stuff. But the one thing I can do is go out there and try to make some hustle plays.”
After going six seasons without reaching the NBA Finals, with the last one ending in a sweep of LeBron James’ Cavaliers, Duncan is back on the biggest stage. And make no mistake about it – while Tony Parker is team may be the team’s biggest star, the 37-year-old Duncan played a huge role in the team’s run. He earned All-NBA First Team honors this season for the 10th time in his career, averaging 17.4 points and 9.6 rebounds.
Heading into the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra knew the Spurs would be eager to bounce back from a 19-point loss.
“It’s just about trying to have an incredible sense of urgency now as we change venues here in their comfort zone,” Spoelstra said. “Can we exceed that level of urgency that they’ll have tonight?”
Duncan showed the urgency Spoelstra was talking about. The Heat didn’t.