The last time Tim Duncan had a playoff game with 26 points and 10 rebounds was two years ago, when the San Antonio Spurs were getting swept by the Dallas Mavericks. Thirteen postseason games later, and the Clippers were forced to suffer through one of Duncan’s best games in recent years, leading the Spurs to a 109-92 victory.
It wasn’t meant to be fair. The Clippers just coming off a grueling series with the Memphis Grizzlies, having both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul at less than 100%. The Spurs were rested; very important to the old bones of Duncan and Ginobili, and apparently not that good for Tony Parker. The Point Guard battle royale everyone expected has been delayed.
But the Spurs could live with Parker having a terrible night, shooting 1-9 from the field, scoring 7 points. He dished out 11 assists as well. Chris Paul had a 3-13 shooting night, adding 10 assists to his six points. There’s no way the Clippers can win with Chris Paul playing like that. Having Blake Griffin (15 points, 9 rebounds) playing on a hurt ankle isn’t helping either.
On the other side, the fresh and super-deep Spurs had time to let all 12 players take a part in the game. If Duncan dominating in the paint on both ends wasn’t enough, Manu Ginobili broke loose from all the criticism by scoring 22 points in 27 minutes off the bench. Like Pop like to say – He’s Manu Ginobili. Don’t let a bad game or series which the Spurs handled with ease against the Jazz make you think that Ginobili won’t be producing at a much higher level when push comes to shove.
The list of vital contributors seems endless on this Spurs team. Kawhi Leonard, maybe the biggest steal in the 2011 NBA Draft, scored 16 points, getting to start. Boris Diaw finished with 7 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists. Danny Green was great on defense and scored 15 points, grabbing six rebounds. The Spurs were unstoppable from the outside, hitting a franchise record 13 three pointers.
Everything that won the Clippers their series against the Grizzlies wasn’t there. The defense, the hustle, and Chris Paul. Vinny Del Negro’s team looked worn out from the first minute. It’s bad enough he has to take all the criticism about his coaching and the incredible inferiority he’s at when facing Gregg Popovich; His players actually made it look so true.
But those are the Clippers for you – With Blake Griffin’s high flying, with the improved defense and hustle, usually coming when Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin come off the bench, it all comes down to how well Chris Paul is playing. He’s the only one who can create, especially in closing minutes when defenses become tighter. They need him at his best to make something of this series, and even that won’t be enough.
I doubt that Duncan will be this dominant and explosive in Game 2. A week of rest doesn’t come along too often in these playoffs or this season for that matter. But for one night, there was no more talk of how he’s adjusting to being a lesser player than before. Age does go way sometimes, and Duncan took Griffin and Jordan to school. Not by being the smart center who wins things with the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. But by being the old Tim Duncan, the MVP Tim Duncan, who simply outplayed you and had the stats to show it.