Denver Nuggets 112, San Antonio Spurs 106: Tim Duncan in a losing effort

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31 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and two steals. Tim Duncan did that at 36 years old, in his 16th NBA season. He’s also played 190 playoff games in his career, which means you could realistically tack on another two seasons and change to his NBA odometer.

All that mileage on a knee that seemed to be deteriorating before our very eyes just a couple of years ago and he’s still producing nights like he did on Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets. I’d like to be more outraged that the Spurs lost to the Nuggets 112-106, marking their fourth straight road loss, but I’m not. I’m still marveling at what Duncan is able to do at his age.

All the talk over the summer about Duncan retiring with the end of his contract and questions about him passing the torch to young big men like Anthony Davis seem ignorant at this point. Duncan is defying all expectations. His per-36 minute numbers are right in line with his peak seasons and his showing the ability to come through with monster performances when needed. And that might be the biggest difference as compared to the last couple of years.

Relying on Duncan to take over a game seemed to be a relic of the past. Now it’s a plausible scenario. There are some nights when the Spurs are going to need Duncan to take over, tonight was one of them, and Duncan has shown the capacity to come through once again. As Matt Moore pointed out on Twitter, the Nuggets seemed content to let Duncan do his thing inside offensively, preferring instead to stay at home on Spur shooters, and Duncan more then obliged.

The Spurs hit 14-36 3-pointers, but that was in large part due to Patty Mills (who shot 5-8 from 3) and Tony Parker (2-3). San Antonio needed Duncan to be the go-to guy offensively. Without him this game would have gotten even more out of hand than it did and never recovered.

Defensively Duncan was just as important. The Spurs once again struggled to protect the glass, allowing 13 offensive boards and losing the rebounding battle 58-45. Duncan’s 18 boards (14 defensive) and five blocks preserved what little hope San Antonio had at a comeback. For someone who contends he never jumps, Duncan does a decent job controlling the area around the rim.

The season will go on, and the Spurs will recover from this loss. They’ll have performances where it looks like they’ve turned a corner, and they’ll have losses just like this one. That’s what happens when you look too closely in December. The one thing they have to hope for is that performances like the one Tim Duncan had against the Nuggets on Tuesday night continue well into 2013, and that they don’t continue to go to waste.

Some other notes from the Spurs’ loss in Denver:

  •  Turnovers and rebounds continue to plague the Spurs. 15 turnovers leading to 29 fastbreak points for the Nuggets. 13 offensive rebounds for 13 second chance points. You can attribute some of the fastbreak points to the Spurs’ tired legs on the second night of a back-to-back, the transition defense truly was bad, but the issues still remain. The hope is that the rebounding will improve when Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson are both back to 100% in their respective roles. The turnovers should improve some as the rotations are solidified and Gregg Popovich’s lineups are set. That will breed better familiarity and rhythm.
  • It was an interesting start to this game in which Spurs big men Duncan and Tiago Splitter stole the ball from Denver in the front court three times in the first quarter, each steal leading to baskets for the Spurs. It was essentially a one-man full court press the Spurs accidentally put on, and it worked to perfection.
  • Speaking of Splitter, he’s started out very well in the last two games, producing 10 points combined in the first quarters against Denver and Oklahoma City. In the remaining six quarters of action Splitter has only contributed another 10 points.
  • While Tim Duncan was the game’s star performer, the Spurs would’ve been in a heap of trouble had it not been for Patty Mills. Patty scored 15 points on five 3-pointers when the Spurs needed a scoring kick from the perimeter. Four of those 3s came in the fourth quarter.
  • junierizzle

    Another tough loss. They definitely would have stolen it if Green and Jackson would’ve had average games. They could not buy a bucket. I think they settled for threes too early but whatever.

    Some thoughts:
    I’d like to see De Colo in BEFORE THEY TRAIL BY 10 OR MORE POINTS. Things seem to amp up when he gets in there.

    Manu looked decent.

    To me the SPURS have looked, for lack of a better word, disinterested. I guess it’s hard in December. So far they have won because of their execution and the system. But the last four road games they just haven’t clicked. I think it’s because all these road games have just annoyed them mentally more than anything. They are still sticking to the system but I’m not seeing intensity.

    Seems like someone always gets their season high against the Spurs.

  • Gomezd

    those 3 missed 3s in a row… that crushed my soul.

  • DieHardSpur

    What a gem of a game by Tim Duncan. That will probably be on the list of his top 20 games ever… Tony had a terrible night, other than the confidence in his corner three. Jack, Green, and Neal couldn’t throw it in the ocean last night… Neal has regressed from last year in regards to getting to the hole and pick and roll. There was a stretch last year where he was averaging 5 assist because him and Tiago were punishing people in the paint. It sure was nice to see our defense step up when we needed it.

    Coach Karl said before the game “Except for some of the great shot blockers – Tim is the best defensive big man I have ever seen play basketball.”

    Does he not know that Tim Duncan is the Leading NBA Shot blocker in the playoffs?

    It also looks like a chemistry is forming between Tim and Tiago, which is nice. The touch pass from Tiago was great!

  • merkin

    Duncan has a terrible game vs. Boston and the Spurs win comfortably. He has two monster games recently and they lose…go figure.

  • Colin

    Wasting the nights where Duncan plays like this is a troubling trend and its also to the point that if Parker doesn’t have a 20/10 night then the Spurs will be playing catch up. Ginobili’s days as a difference maker are fewer and far between so other guys will need to step up (Leonard, Jackson, Green, Neal). If Green isn’t making shots then he shouldn’t be on the floor. Splitter and Mills need more minutes at this point in the season. Love watching De Colo develop.

  • Bruno

    If Neal/Green/Jack/Diaw keep playing like this we have no chance.

    Maybe it’s time to give Neal/Green minutes to Mills/Manu/Nando and Diaw’s to Blair.

  • Tyler

    Agreed on the disinterested part. I think this team knows the meaningful games are in May. It feels like they’d rather just hit fast forward to the end of the regular season.

    Truthfully, I don’t really worry about this team till after the RRT. At that time, they’ll get a bunch of home games and rest and that’s truly when the rotations solidify. Until then, short of catastrophic injury to TD, Manu, or TP, it’s kind of “meh”.

  • TD BestEVER

    Spurs need to make a trade for a GOOD bigman to put beside TD for these last 2 years……..

    how long can he carry the rebounding and defensive role for this team with little to no help…….. SMH

  • Titletown99030507d

    “Splitter needs minutes” Tiago performs well with any unit. He should be getting 30 minutes a night. Work it out Pop, preferably longer minutes with the 2nd unit where he gets most of the offense as the big. When ever Timmy is resting Tiago should be on the court and also spend some time with Timmy as well. 30 minutes pop ok?

  • Titletown99030507d

    After this season you’ll get your wish. Tiago is going to get paid somewhere else. They’ll probably bring in some stiff to play with Blair and Bonner and share minutes with Timmy. Spurs FO just aren’t paying for a great performing big not in Pop’s lifetime. Have fun next season seeing Timmy yet another year older and playing with a mediocre big in the box.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Splitter needs more time with DeColo, Mills, Manu, and Kawhi when he comes back.

  • Titletown99030507d

    It’s a good thing Tim and Tiago are getting aquainted but Tiago needs to play with the 2nd unit a lot more now. Timmy should be considered for the all star game more this year than last.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Green 1-9. that’s why we lost.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Decolo and Splitter are a good combonation for quick points.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Who do you recommend and who do think your going to trade for that big?

  • Titletown99030507d

    I’d like to see Tiago get the minutes he’s getting with Timmy plus the same minutes he had been getting with the 2nd unit like I said somehwhere’s about 30 minutes for the game. If we can dream for a championship I can dream for those minutes. He got 23 last game just 7 more minutes would be ideal. He’s young enough and in shape and is on a roll right now.

  • Tyler

    I think you’re wrong in regards to Tiago. Obviously things can change, but even a near double of his salary to $6-7M per is something I think the Spurs would be ok with.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    I’m not so sure about that. Those $6-$8 million contract are what kill teams’ salary cap flexibility. The Spurs have been pretty averse to signing guys to anything over around $3.5 mil a year, outside of Diaw’s contract (which came out of the MLE). That was a big reason George Hill was traded.

  • Tyler

    I disagree to a point. It’s not the nominal $6-8M that kills teams’ cap situation; it’s $6-8M contracts that go to players that end up giving you nothing. Luke Walton, Travis Outlaw, Biedrins are the first that come to mind. Like all contracts, it’s about what you get in return for that money. I think $6-7M for a starting quality big man (which Tiago is) sets up for a reasonable return, especially considering he’s in his prime for the entirety of the contract (I’m assuming a 3 year deal).

    Regardless, I think that’s probably close to what he’d get on the open market.

  • Colin

    Yeah, thanks……………

  • Titletown99030507d

    Andrew the reason your theory holds true right now is because the Spurs have 3 huge contracts to pay out in the core 3 but if one or two are gone they can easily afford Tiago at 8 mil and wouldn’t kill the team when Manu or Timmy are gone or both. Even though Timmy will be around for two more years my guess is adios for Manu. I love the guy but I would not pay him anymore after this season. they could afford Tiago if Manu is gone.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I agree. Better here than somewhere else.

  • TD BestEVER

    Tiago ONLY PLAYS Well when the SPURS PnR Offense is rolling……. he gets ALL OF HIS BUCKETS from someone else…… And just like last year that can be taken away and therefor so can he……. plus his rebounding isn’t all that great…….. So all in all he is FATALLY FLAWED……….. and no one will pay him 8 million plus next year…… 4-5 max and that is too much if you ask me…..We need a big that can play one either offense or defense ON HIS OWN……..without so much help