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