Some arguments can’t be decided, but the way the San Antonio Spurs are looking recently thanks to Tim Duncan raising the level of his game while Tony Parker recovers with his injury puts them on top of the Western Conference justly, while the combination between Duncan and Tiago Splitter might be the best we’re seeing this season from two big men in the NBA.
I’m sure people in Memphis, who just did the Spurs a big favor by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, might argue, but it’s possibly a matter of taste and how you like your basketball played. For those from the Warriors who suffered a 93-104 defeat in San Antonio, who saw Duncan and Splitter combine to score 42 points, grab 20 rebounds and hand out 10 assists, there’s no real question who are the best right now.
Splitter certainly feels fortunate to be playing next to someone like Duncan – Unbelievable; he’s just unbelievable. He’s just figuring out how to play great at his age. It’s not easy, he’s not same guy like 10 years ago. He doesn’t have the same quickness, but he still knows how to play this game.
For those pushing for Duncan to win defensive player of the year, he was certainly at that level early on in the game, finishing with four blocks. The Spurs haven’t been really pleasing defensively in recent games, with the 116 points they gave up against Cleveland coming to mind; they had their lapses against the Warriors, allowing a couple of 10-1 and such runs, but they certainly looked a lot more physical and focused both in the paint (limiting the Warriors to 36 points) and guarding the perimeter, keeping the Warriors at 44% from the field and limiting them to only 12 three point shots.
Duncan finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks, averaging 24.3 points over the last three games, waiting for Tony Parker (already practicing) to return so he can start taking more time on the bench. Splitter finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds, while Manu Ginobili also scored 16 points, but had an awful shooting night (what’s new, he’s 30.9% from the field in the last five games) that almost erased the wonderful job he’s doing as a backup point guard, dishing 7 assists in the 28 minutes he had on the floor.
Nando de Colo, the official backup point guard according to the positions listed by the players’ names when you check any website for the Spurs’ roster, had a good game himself, scoring 10 points on 5-6 from the field, finally showing that he can be consistent with some physical play, probably his biggest problem since joining the league from Spain, going through some D-League time playing for the Austin Toros.
With news of the Thunder losing again, this time to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs have now opened a 2.5 game lead on top of the West. It doesn’t mean they can put it on cruise control till the rest of the season, but it does mean Popovich can give Duncan a little bit of well earned rest and try to win a game or two without his (still, after all these years) best player, while hoping Parker gets back sooner than projected, and Manu Ginobili stops shooting like he’s wearing a blindfold.