The defensive stylings of Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair
AT&T Center — For the second game in a row this preseason, DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan started together. And also for the second straight game, the Spurs got off to a quick start in the first quarter, this time in their 90-73 win over the Miami Heat.
The pairing of Duncan and Blair has almost everything the Spurs need, especially on the defensive end. Whether Duncan is listed at power forward and Blair at center — or vice versa — the two can easily switch players and positions at will.
Against Houston on Thursday, one time down the court Blair matched up with Luis Scola and Duncan with Yao Ming. The next time down the floor Duncan was late getting down to the defensive end and the two switched on the fly with no negative consequences.
Blair has the quickness and an underrated knowledge of how to defend the pick-and-roll. He seems to know when to pick his spots and hedge hard on the ball handler coming off the pick, or when to hang back and stick with the roll man.
“Tim and I have good chemistry,” Blair said after Saturday’s win over the Heat. “During the season, it will be pretty fun.”
In the first quarter Saturday night against Miami, the only quarter the two played together, the pair held Heat power forward Chris Bosh to two points on 1-6 shooting and one rebound, with one of his shots blocked by Duncan. Heat starting center Joel Anthony managed a single rebound in his three-and-a-half minutes in the first quarter.
Juwan Howard entered for Anthony and got two points and five rebounds in the first period. Even LeBron James shot 3 of 8 in the first quarter (though he did shoot six free throws), with several of his attempts coming at or near the rim. Part of it could have been early season rust for the Heat, but the Blair-Duncan combo did a fairly decent job protecting the bucket, despite the lack of above-the-rim game between the two.
Where the pairing of Duncan and Blair really excels is on the boards. Duncan is one of the most accomplished rebounders in NBA history. Blair has an “innate feel” for rebounds as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich put if after the Rockets game on Thursday. Together, the two can finish off defensive possessions for the Spurs unlike many teams the Spurs ran out on the floor in previous years.
The two combined for 15 rebounds in Thursday night’s game against Houston, to just eight for the Yao Ming / Scola combo. Against the Heat, they were outrebounded by the Howard-Anthony-Bosh triumvirate 9-7, but all seven rebounds came from Blair.
“It’s a lot of battling with me and Tim getting on the boards,” Blair said. “It’s just a process that’s going to get there and we have to just keep rolling.”