Tim Duncan logs 28 minutes in Spurs win over Orlando

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I don’t know what it all means. The Spurs are an offensive machine this season, something we wrote about during preseason play, and Tim Duncan is not the focal point of the offense. Duncan only played 28 minutes against the Magic. A mere 28 minutes in a game someone on Twitter described as NBA Finals level play in mid-November.  It was a great game, and the Spurs edged the Magic through a furry of perfect play in the final minutes.

But Tim Duncan only playing 28 minutes during an intense, tightly-contested game? That’s new.

Duncan’s current usage rate (22.23) is easily the lowest of his career; Duncan is playing a career-low 29.8 minutes per game.

Meanwhile, the Spurs haven’t skipped a beat.

Tony Parker is playing better than ever, Manu Ginobili is still an ace, and everyone else on the team, from Matt Bonner to Gary Neal, is playing well. Freaking Tiago “I’ve looked really good when I play” Splitter received a virtual DNP-CD, save for 10 seconds of human foul insulation at the end of the first half. The Spurs have scorers at every position at every moment of every game. It’s a Twilight Zone experience watching the Spurs eclipse 100 points night after night. 100 points is easy for this team.

And Tim Duncan is just cruising. His presence is felt. He makes big plays every contest. His individual defensive statssteals, blocks, defensive plays, total rebound rate–are at a four-year high while his foul rate is at a four-year low. Good things are happening, and the Spurs are slowly returning to defensive prominence. They’re currently ranked 6th defensively, which isn’t bad for a team that played mediocre defense to start the season and moves at the league’s 7th fastest pace.

Tim Duncan is still very much in the middle of all that. He drives their defensive bus. And offensively? According to John Hollinger’s PER, Duncan is the fourth best center in basketball, and I suspect he’ll move up, rather than down, that list as the season progresses. He’s an All-Star, still.

But the Spurs are off to a franchise best start and their franchise best player has assumed, somewhat shockingly, a supporting role. Tim Duncan’s gone all David Robinson on us, and things look alright. Forget that 12-1 thing. And forget the fact these Spurs have bathed the team’s famous offensive droughts in an ocean of shot making. Tim Duncan’s overnight transformation into basketball’s most effective third wheel is easily the most surprising story in Spursville.

  • ITGuy

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • rob

    Yeah. This is an amazing run to say the least with Duncan logging so few minutes.

    My concern is the minutes Ginobili is playing. He’s bound (I would think) if he continues at this pace for the rest of the season to wear down come playoffs. And maybe even Parker too.

    Would it be prudent to give him (them) some rest between games even if it meant the Spurs lose a few in their absense?

    I mean…at this point…they are showing (proving) what they can do (win) at full strength. Why not allow Parker and Ginobili some intermediate time off so as not to wear them down by season’s end?

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    Hey Tim, was the game really that hairy? J/K, don’t know how you can keep cranking out the great stories following the games but kudos to you!

    The biggest key is that the Big 3 all got plenty of rest this past summer and are healthy. This Spurs team without question is the most talented group ever. I believe this squad is hungry to prove the doubters wrong about things like “the Big 3 are too old” or “they have a bust in Richard Jefferson” or “they have no real frontline help for Duncan”, which is all bullshit.

    Since when is it with absolute certainty that a player’s career over or on a sharp decline at 33? Does EVERY SINGLE player fall off at that age? You can’t measure heart and determination in all of these stat geek spreadsheets!

    The Spurs have the best collective group that I have EVER seen and I have been a Spurs fan since I was 9 years old back in 1976. This team has taken it personally this season and it is reflected in their play in every game this year.

    Even when the Hornets were kicking their ass – mistakes or no mistakes taken into consideration, this team flipped the switch, went into attack mode and made a game of it, right up until the last minute of the game or they may very well be the only unbeaten team in the NBA instead of the only one loss team.

    Pop has done a great job of shot distribution, substitution of players, encouraging when needed and shouting them down when necessary and I don’t think enough is said about that either. The guy has created a winner in San Antonio….now, who the hell would have thought that before he took over?

    When we look to count our blessings this Thursday, let’s start by thanking God for giving us a coach, front office and staff that does not sell the farm for instant gratification instead the utilization of logic, creating a winning process while not deviating from it and counting on everyone buying into the gameplan.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and let’s all look forward to banner #5 hanging in the rafters with another river parade to celebrate supreme effort and faith in a system, while sprinkling in a little good fortune!

  • BlaseE

    Duncan was amazing last night. He was flying all over the place….blocks, near blocks, deflections, driving to the basket instead of settling for the top of the key shot, and even taking a rare charge.

    We were down by 11 rebounds or so at half, and finished right around that deficit (9). We did a much better job boxing out in the second half.

  • ty

    Rob they have played 13 games relax yourself.. pop knows what he’s doing, their trying to win games and you can’t do that w/ chris quinn and danny green in the game.. its a long season and tony and manu are fresh from takin the summer off.. pop doesn’t hesitate to rest someone that may be breaking down (tiago) who has played to much and might need a break

  • Andrew Burchett

    Hey guys, wanted to you a question in regards to a debate I had with my buddy the other day. My friend suggested that the Spurs trade for Chris Kaman, using Blair plus a pick & pieces given that he’s a 7 footer who could provide an inside presence that would potentially be able to matchup with the Lakers. I disagree, arguing that (aside from the $24 million he’s owed over 2 years) defensively he’s not enough of a match to go along with Duncan, he’s injury prone & he’s not physical enough to really battle with the likes of Gasol/Bynum despite good rebounding & blocks numbers. As someone who follows the NBA pretty regularly, Kaman is a nice player with a nicely refined game who would fit well on many teams but I don’t think he fits with the Spurs. What do you guys think? Would you trade for Kaman?

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  • LasEspuelas

    To rob, this is not the time to rest Manu and Tony. This is the time to build as big a cushion as possible so that rest can come later in the season.

    BlaseE, it was insane how poorly we were rebounding in the first half. I could not believe my eyes when I looked at the box. Bonner was our leading rebounder for the game!!! Insane. You are missed on the other side of the interwebs sir.

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  • Nick

    I love that the team is focused on getting better defensively. The hot shooting won’t last forever, but it is a product of how well the Spurs move/share the ball.

    The other thing that’s nice is the Spurs know who’s hot hand to ride. They know if Timmy’s going to get the ball to Timmy. Right now, so many people are rolling, TD doesn’t have to be.

  • Tyler

    I was impressed with a few things:

    Ball Movement – 25 assists on 38 FG’s. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’d have to say we are probably at or near the top of the league in % of assisted FG’s. I guess that’s what you get when you have two of the best playmakers at their position (TP and Manu).

    Defense in the 2nd half – I thought we closed out on shooters (especially Lewis) in the second half better. Really, it was turnovers on the Spurs’ part that allowed Orlando to get a few open looks. In the halfcourt though, I thought we contested well.

    Bonner’s defense – best defensive showing I’ve seen from him. His post defense on Bass and Lewis was simply fantastic.

    Even though it’s early, it’s hard not to get too excited about this group (I’m fighting it, I really am). And as much as I’d love to keep this streak going, I think we need to think about slowly paring down the minutes of TP and Manu. Personally, I’ve seen enough – we can compete with anyone; I don’t need to see any more to be convinced. At this point, the only thing that can derail this speeding train is health. I would expect Pop to reduce our backcourt’s minutes over the next few weeks.

  • rkfan1012

    Overall it was great game. Both teams brought their best effort. Aside from some rebounding woes in the first half and some turnovers in the second, the Spurs played a great game. 12-1 is nice but its going to take alot more work and a humble attitude to keep up this pace. But so far I’m enjoying the ride this season. Go Spurs!

  • Tim in Surrey

    @Rob – I suspect you’re seeing Manu get so many minutes right now because James Anderson is out. I could be wrong, but I think that once James gets back to 100% in about 6 weeks (give or take a couple) you’ll see Manu’s minutes drop a bit. The problem with Manu, though, isn’t so much the minutes he plays–he really seems to be tireless–as much as the reckless abandon he plays with at times. This year he has been doing a good bit less of the high-flying acrobatics, so I think he’s actually a bit more likely to last all season long than he was a couple of years ago.

    Boy and he is just killing people right now, isn’t he? I think of all the years I’ve watched him, this might be his best one yet. You take away his shot and he kills you with the drive. You take away his drive and he kills you with the shot. You take away both and he’s happy to set up his teammates. Or, just to screw with the other team’s heads, once or twice a game he’ll show you that you never really did take away either his shot or his drive! All this while subtly playing some of the best perimeter defense in the league. As Kobe put it, he’s a bad man.

    @Andrew Burchett – Kaman’s a pretty good player but he’s not really a difference maker and he’d be a poor fit with Duncan. At this point, given Blair’s upside, youth, and salary, I certainly wouldn’t trade him with a #1 pick for Kaman–and I probably wouldn’t even trade him straight up. I really think Blair has a good chance to be a special player–a better player than Kaman–within a couple of years. But who knows?

  • VP of Common Sense

    Great win!

    Not to be knit picky, but here goes:

    1) Tia-where-did-you-go Splitter!?

    – I get it Pop. He’s a rookie and you don’t trust him, but I could not believe Splitter didn’t make it on the court last night.

    2) George Hill

    – Hill’s defense and spot-up shooting have been invaluable this season. My only concern is when Hill is initiating the offense. It seems like the ball stops in his hands and he somehow burns 10-12 seconds off the shot-clock with out doing anything. Hopefully, he gets more comfortable and becomes more assertive in his decision making.

    I probably should have just deleted this post.

    Spurs are playing awesome. I feel lucky to be a Spurs fan.

    Go Spurs!

  • Eddie Rutkoski

    Great game, great win. As far as Blair – Kaman. I think I would make that trade. You have to admit, Blair cannot jump like Barkley in his prime, so he will always have hard time getting his shots off. Unless he developes a great jumper

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    I agree with Tim, Kaman is not a good fit. I disagree that the Spurs should ease up. This team is building momentum and gaining steam as well as confidence with all of these wins. It is especially important to build up their psyche as they prepare to face some really tough teams in future match ups, such as the Mavs, Hornets and Lakers in the next month.

  • DC Spurs

    Last night was definitely a nail-bitter of a game to watch as the lead kept changing so many times. The 3-point shooting by the Spurs was just incredible. I do wish we could have taken back those 2 minutes where the Spurs made 4 turnovers in a row and the Magics went on that 9-0 run…We could have had a nice lead and rested our starters.

    One of my favorite moments of the game was when Bonner fought Howard for the rebound, and ripped it away. Bonner is getting it done!

  • Hobson13

    Andrew Burchett
    November 23rd, 2010 at 7:02 am

    I think Kaman would be a great boost to the team and would be fine playing alongside Duncan. However, we can’t get him for Blair and a #1 pick. The salaries wouldn’t even come close to matching up. We would dang near have to trade either one of the big 4 or several smaller pieces (McDyess, Bonner, etc.) to make this work. I don’t see a need to trade 3-4 players (many of whom are playing very well) in order to get Kaman. No need to mess with a good thing and 12-1 is a very good thing.

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  • Tyler

    @ VP of Common Sense

    Re: George Hill

    I agree. There was one possession in particular in the 2nd half where he dribbled out at least 12 seconds of the shot clock near half court. The end result was a shot clock violation after a Bonner desperation heave (I was surprised it didn’t go in the way he was shooting). Just a wasted position.

    But the play was more indicative of Hill’s control/grasp on the offense. I’m sure it’s not all Hill’s fault – guys probably weren’t where they were supposed to be. But then again, that’s also the PG’s #1 job – get people in the right spots and into the right sets. That particular play stood out in my mind.

    That’s not to discount the other valuable things Hill brings to the table – 3pt shooting, defense, etc. We’re definitely going to need him in big situations. But that one play just illustrated to me how far he is from being a guy we can give the reins to and expect to lead this team if need be.

  • DC Spurs

    Sorry it’s off topic, but I saw on the ticker last night that Alonzo Gee was picked up by the Wizards. Good luck to him, and I hope he gets some playing time.

  • Ed

    Duncan looked fantastic last night. He was all over the place on defense. He got credited with 2 blocks but he had more than that on Howard alone! he is definitely fresh. Splitter needs more consistant PT and RJ needs to stay “tuned in”, but Tony and Manu are focused like lasers and this team will be a force at playoff time.

  • AP

    Still barely a mention in the national basketball media. Every ESPN writer drools all over the Lakers and Heat every time they notch a win, while here we are quietly the best team in the League. Any other team would already be the subject of 72-10 polls.
    No respect for the best sports franchise in the country.

  • Brian in Seattle

    @AP
    I have noticed ESPN conveniently rid their site of that “Chasing 72″ icon, which embarassingly had the Heat on it.

    @rob concerning Manu and TP’s minutes
    Manu is averaging 32.8 mpg and TP 33.0 mpg. It’s not as if they’re playing monster minute. In fact, they are playing the same amount of minutes Pop would allocate based on the idea of “saving our energy.”

    But, here’s the kicker: we’re winning games, yes, but it’s not as if the Spurs are putting forth any more effort than they were this time last year when we were 7-6. I remember in a post game interview a few games ago Pop saying something similar to this: “It’s not like we wanted to get off to bad starts in the past, or we had devised some great plan to get off to a great start this year. We’re just playing well right now.” Obviously, I’m paraphrasing, but I think it makes my point pretty well.

  • rob

    To all who responded to my post.

    My thought wasn’t due to any fear about Ginobili more so that since the Spurs are playing so well at this early juncture it might not hurt to conveniently reduce minutes intermediately to see if the same results could be generated as Duncan’s reduced minutes have produced.

    Now to some extent…I do believe that if Ginobili were to have to play 30+ mpg all season…the chance of him not being to play/produce like he is now early this season might be a possibility. I’d want the Ginobili we have now early this season for the playoffs. Limiting his mpg during the season would go a long way to helping insure that.

    And at least this year it appears it could be done more as a matter of experimental convenience than out of neccessity like last year. If the results are more losses than wins…then of course he woud have to play more mpg.

  • ThatBigGuy

    In response to the minutes TP and Manu are playing, I think it is a little on the high side. I’d rather see 29-30 mins a game each, but I really can’t argue with the results. I would have to say that after (if, perhaps?) we cool off on the win streak and Anderson comes back, we’ll see Manu and TP’s minutes decrease a little. I think it’s also ok for them to be getting the minutes they are getting this early because we are making a huge statement about our intentions for a title run. I’m just not convinced they, Manu in particular, can keep it up all season and still be strong during a long playoff run.

    As far as a Blair for Kaman swap is concerned, I think Kaman would be a good fit, but we’d have to give up too much to get him. If it was a straight Blair for Kaman trade, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But it looks like we’re going to have another low first round pick in 2011, so that’s not going to be worth a whole lot. Coupled with Blair’s tiny salary and you’re going to have to add at least another player. Then you start messing with our bench depth considerably, which is probably our greatest strength. Let’s keep Blair. He’s cheap.

  • Flavor

    TP is in his prime. His minutes DO NOT need to be lowered. Maybe Manu, a bit. Def. NOT TP

  • ty

    As Herm Edwards said you play to win the game.. you can’t worry bout minutes now just to keep someone fresh later on down the road look at Yao.. Pop is the best coach in the league for a reason he knows what he’s doing

  • rob

    ty

    “you can’t worry bout minutes now just to keep someone fresh later on down the road look at Yao.. ”

    Look at Duncan.

  • ty

    The days of Duncan putting 28 and 15 are over he’s not much of an offensive threat in the half court anymore but he’s a pro so he understands. he has to take a lesser role this year and that means less minutes especially in this up tempo offense

  • the little o

    I say we continue to ride Parker and Ginobili until our record is 50 -1, and clinch the playoffs. Then we rest Parker, Ginobili, Dice, and Duncan until about a few games before the playoffs. Then try to upset the Lakers in the first round.

  • Tim in Surrey

    @the little o – It’s perverse, but I find the idea strangely appealing. Can you imagine just how much it would screw with everybody’s head if the Spurs literally went 50-1–and the media was rolling out stories by the dozen about them smashing the all-time record, being the greatest team in history, etc.–and then they tanked the rest of the season, just to rest their stars?

    Wow. I think John Hollinger’s statistical systems would explode and wipe out the best and brightest of an entire generation of sports statisticians (sorry, Scott). And who knows what kinds of mystical head spaces Phil Jackson would have to visit, just to motivate the Lakers? No wait, let me guess: Equal measures of Capoeira (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdZXp0Tq6Jk), Tuvan throat-singing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTCJ5hedcVA), and Sufi love poetry (http://www.khamush.com/love_poems.html), with a dash of Timothy Leary for flavor (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVNKojc1ucU&feature=related).

    Anyway thanks, little o. That’s very funny…

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