Tim Duncan

It shouldn’t really be surprising anymore, considering everything we’ve seen from Tim Duncan this season, but somehow it still is. Without Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in the roster, the elder statesman of the San Antonio Spurs continues to put up incredible numbers, not just for someone his age with that kind of mileage on his aching body, and more than anything show that he still might be the best big man in the NBA.

For the fourth time this season, Duncan has a 30-10 game, finishing with 31 points and 14 rebounds, leading the Spurs to a 99-97 win over the Atlanta Hawks, putting back on top of the Western Conference, 0.5 games ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have a game more to play.

I’m old, but I’m slow. So I think I trick people into kind of coming into a certain territory and I’ve gotten a couple of blocked shots. We’re not in a great rhythm right now. Honestly, the injuries are hurting us right now. We lost some close ones for a little while and that can push you over the top or that can set you back a little bit. We’ve been set back a little bit, but we won the game, that’s the good part.

It probably says the most about Duncan that the Spurs won a tough game against a playoff team without their best player and another integral part of their system, but it also teaches us about the depth the Spurs have, and especially Kawhi Leonard, praised here not for the first time this season, becoming much more than a defensive stopper. Leonard finished with 23 points and at the current rate, in a couple of years from now might be regarded as one of the bigger steals in recent years we’ve seen in the NBA draft.

There’s no doubt the Spurs are dysfunctional group without Parker on the floor and Ginobili backing him up from the bench. Nando de Colo might be a bit of a pleasant surprise in his rookie campaign, getting a rare start, while Cory Joseph was pushed back to the bench, but it’s clear that for the Spurs to make it as far as they have last season and possibly even further, the return of Tony Parker and the declining Manu Ginobili is a must, even if it means Tim Duncan doesn’t put on the kind of vintage shows he’s been having in their absence this season.

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