Tim Duncan has won four championships. He has been the MVP of the NBA a couple of times, Finals MVP on three occasions, and is a regular in the All Star Game. Once upon a time he was the Rookie of the Year. He's the only player in league history to be All NBA and All Defensive Team in each of his first 13 seasons. Prior to this season it seemed that he was slowing down. Now, as the Spurs head to the NBA Finals, again, Duncan has once again elevated or maybe more accurately refined his game to be the most effective big man in the playoffs.
During Duncan's first decade in the league he averaged 20 points a game or more in nine of 10 seasons. He averaged 11 rebounds or more in nine of the 10 years too. He also played in nearly every San Antonio game over that long span. Starting in 2007-2008 Spurs coach Gregg Popovich began resting Duncan more including giving him a few games off during the season. In 2010-2011 his numbers dipped to 13.4 points a game and 8.9 rebounds per contest while playing just 28 minutes a night. Last year he only participated in 58 games scoring 15.4 points a game. This season, in 69 regular season games he upped his average to just under 18 points and fell just shy of 10 rebounds a contest. In this years playoffs, when needed, Duncan has been spectacular.
San Antonio swept their opening round playoff series against the Lakers. Since each game was a decisive victory, Duncan never needed to play more than 35 minutes in a single game. He still managed a 26 point, nine rebound effort in game three, and set the tempo for the series with a 17 point, 10 rebound effort in a 91-79 win during game one.
When it looked like Golden State would challenge the Spurs, Duncan came up big again. With the series tied at one, San Antonio won in Oakland during game three. Duncan't 23 points and 10 rebounds led the charge. He followed that with a 19 point, 15 rebound effort over 43 minutes in game four. In the series clinching game six he went for 19 points on seven of 13 shooting and hit all five of his free throw attempts.
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After not being needed to produce huge in a blowout win against Memphis in game one of the Western Finals, Duncan went for 17 points and nine rebounds in a tightly contested game two. In game three's overtime win he put up 24 points and 10 rebounds in 44 minutes. He was the team's second leading scorer and top rebounder in the clincher on Sunday night.
The Spurs went 0-2 against Miami during the regular season. Duncan played in just one of the two games. He delivered 17 point and grabbed 12 rebounds in an 88-86 loss on March 31. The Heat were the fifth best defensive team in the NBA during the regular season holding opponents to 95 points a game. In the playoffs Miami has been even better, holding opposition to 88.1 points a contest. However, this probably won't be an issue for Duncan.
The Grizzlies were the best defensive team in the NBA during the regular season. Duncan had little difficulty when needed putting himself in positions to excel against Memphis. It is possible that Miami has to many good players for San Antonio. The Heat may also game plan to stop Duncan and hope that other Spurs aren't good enough to beat them. Either way, at the age of 37, the way Duncan continues to play is amazing towards the end of a Hall of Fame career.