San Antonio Spurs 114, Detroit Pistons 75: Tim Duncan looks like the Tim Duncan of 2012
AT&T CENTER — When Tony Parker went down with a sprained ankle in the San Antonio Spurs’ win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night, the second question asked was how are the Spurs going to keep scoring like this without Parker? The first question was obviously about how severe Parker’s ankle injury was.
In beating the Detroit Pistons 114-75 on Sunday evening, Tim Duncan and the Spurs helped piece some of that puzzle together. Duncan put up a line of 16 points, 11 boards, six assists and five blocked shots in the win over Detroit. It was the first game in about a month or so that reminded everyone of how well Duncan was playing early in the season. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said as much after the game.
“This is the first night he has looked like Tim Duncan to me in the last two-to-three weeks,” Coach Pop said. “He had more spring and more balance out on the court.”
Entering February, Duncan was averaging about 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. He had submitted several vintage Tim Duncan performances, including a 22 points, 21 rebound game against the Utah Jazz, and something you could consider flirting with a quadruple-double against the Denver Nuggets.
Since the start of February, though Duncan was only putting up 12.5 points and 7.6 rebounds a game as he battled a couple of knee injuries, including the scary one he suffered against the Washington Wizards before the All-Star break.
“Health-wise I felt great tonight. Moving around felt great,” Duncan said after the game.
With Parker out and the Pistons in town, a little more of the emphasis was put on Duncan. While the Spurs submitted a beautiful all-around performance and relied heavily on the ball movement that has been a trademark of theirs this season (35 assists on 45 made field goals), Duncan was huge. He was back to being the defensive anchor for the Spurs, with his six blocked shots and 11 rebounds helping to get the San Antonio offense out on the run.
“We’re going to move the ball and use a lot of pick-and-rolls [with Parker out],” Duncan said. “We’re going to use a lot of body movement.”
Having a rock-solid Tim Duncan in the lineup had to have helped Cory Joseph, who was making his second career start in place of Parker. Instead of slotting Nando Do Colo or Patty Mills in for the injured Parker, the Spurs are apparently taking some time to see what they have with Joseph, who finished with eight points (on 3-of-5 from the field) and four assists, with just one turnover.
It’s hard to make a judgement after two games on Joseph’s long term potential, but I will say this: he didn’t look out of place on an NBA floor. I’ve long thought that because of his long arms, Joseph could be a good defensive point guard in the NBA, and it seems his jump shot and offensive game are both catching up. He’ll need more floor time to get his timing in-sync with his teammates, but the early returns looks solid.
“I thought he did a fine job. He played a good floor game,” Coach Pop said. “He’s gotten his opportunity and he seems to be taking advantage of it.”
As Manu Ginobili (17 points, three assists) rounds into form and Kawhi Leonard (14 points, six rebounds) continues to expand his game, the Spurs will adjust to temporary life without Parker. With Tim Duncan as a strengthening foundation the Spurs will weather the storm as best they can.
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com/Stats