Spurs | Tim Duncan

Spurs’ Tim Duncan has strong start, weak finish in Game 6 of NBA Finals


Spurs big man Tim Duncan dominated early Tuesday with a classic performance, but he couldn’t sustain it until the game’s end.

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The three-time NBA Finals MVP started dismantling the Heat early, with an exquisite 12-foot bank shot, the type we have witnessed Tim Duncan make hundreds of times.

Duncan had a glorious three quarters but came up empty in the fourth and overtime, ending a big night with a thud.

Duncan went to the fourth quarter with 30 points and didn’t score again, missing his four shots in the fourth and his only shot of overtime. He finished 13 for 21 from the field and corralled a game-high 17 rebounds. The Spurs outscored the Heat by 16 points with Duncan in the game.

“It’s disappointing,” Duncan said. “I had some opportunities. We put ourselves in position to win the game. They made plays to take it from us.”

For much of the night, Duncan abused Chris Bosh, tormenting him with jumpers, spin moves and hooks. He made his first nine shots with Bosh defending him.

But Bosh stiffened defensively in the fourth quarter and overtime, keeping Duncan in check and making two huge blocks late: one on Tony Parker and a swat on Danny Green’s three-pointer to end the game.

Udonis Haslem, who had done a good job defending Duncan in this series, did not play because of a coach’s decision for the first time all season.

How good was Duncan’s first half? His 25 points before intermission were his most in a first half since May 2006. It was only his fourth 25-point half in his career — three of them coming in playoff games.

His 18 points in the paint in the first half tied his high for an entire game in any of the past three postseasons. And for good measure, he added eight first half rebounds.

Here’s how Duncan’s first half went: a bank shot, a three-foot jumper, a dunk, a 13-foot jumper, a 10-foot turnaround bank shot, a nine-foot hook, a tip shot, a layup, a very short jumper, three free throws, a turnaround bank shot and a dunk.

For perspective, consider Duncan’s 25 points were four more than the combined first half total of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh.

Duncan’s layup early in the third quarter, off a nifty pass from Manu Ginobili, made him 10 for 10 against Bosh. He finally missed against Bosh, on a nine-footer, but then hit a jumper against Chris Andersen and went to the fourth quarter with 30.

Duncan then got a brief rest late in the third and early in the fourth, and the Heat sliced the Spurs’ lead from 12 to four while he was out of the game.

Once Duncan returned with 9:22 left, he could do nothing to blunt the Heat’s momentum. Duncan had his shot blocked by James with 6:43 left, missed a driving layup 57 seconds later, then missed a five-foot hook shot with 3:01 left.

In overtime, Duncan missed a difficult driving layup, but Kawhi Leonard followed with a short jumper.

Leonard was terrific, with 22 points (on 9-of-14 shooting) and 11 rebounds. The Spurs outscored the Heat by 11 with Leonard on the court.

This was Leonard at his best, and it came in the midst of an 11-0 Spurs run that pushed San Antonio’s lead to 12 midway through the third quarter: Leonard sliced in front of Wade, stole a James pass, drove for a layup, drew Wade’s fourth foul and hit a free throw.

Early on, Boris Diaw’s length seemed to bother James, who missed 13 of 14 shots against Diaw in Game 5 and the first half of Game 6. But James finally got untracked, victimizing Diaw and others in a 16-point fourth quarter.

The Spurs got poor nights from Green (three points, 1-for-6 shooting in regulation) and Ginobili (nine points, eight turnovers). The Spurs were outscored by 21 with Ginobili on the court, and he committed two key turnovers in the final minute of overtime.

Parker finished with 19 points, eight assists and no turnovers but missed 17 of 23 shots.

“I had a career high in turnovers at a bad moment,” Ginobili said. “Makes me feel terrible.”

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