After losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Milwaukee Bucks, the San Antonio Spurs got themselves out of the hole, exacted revenge against the Houston Rockets, and continued their winning streak at home with a 101-95 victory over their Texas rival.
The Spurs needed five more minutes to secure an unblemished record at home with 7-0. Offensively, Tony Parker took the lead with 28 points and 8 assists. On the other end of the floor, Tim Duncan came back to his typical, old defensive self, gathering 8 boards, swatting the ball twice and stealing it thrice, and still contributing 17 points to the Spurs’ winning cause. He also passed Larry Bird in the all-time scoring list after making a free-throw at the second half. He came into the game just 10 points shy of the former Boston Celtic legend’s record. Duncan’s role was most evident at overtime, with 1:18 remaining, where he blocked a shot which led to a fast break and a three-point dagger from Richard Jefferson, ultimately sealing the game for the Spurs.
The road, however, has not been very cooperating with San Antonio, as they have yet to win a game away from the AT&T Center. They still have the luxury of playing two more home games, against Portland on Friday and Phoenix on Sunday, just before they hit the road again and face the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
Already missing the services of injured Manu Ginobili, the Spurs lost the just-sizzling TJ Ford to a torn left hamstring during their loss to Milwaukee the other night. He, too, will be missing four to six weeks of action. The losses prompted coach Gregg Popovich to make some adjustments in his starting line-up, with Kawhi Leonard starting in place of Gary Neal, who goes back to bench duties. Coach Pop also recalled Corey Joseph and Malcolm Thomas from the D-League to expand further their thinning bench line-up.
Kyle Lowry led the Rockets with 22 points and 7 assists, while Luis Scola had 20 points and just 5 boards.
Having stayed in the number two spot for two weeks, the Spurs slid down the standings to number 4 with 7 wins and 4 losses. Houston, as of this moment is at the cellar of the standings in the West with 3-7.
When the San Antonio Spurs selected Tim Duncan in 1997, basketball life in the Alamo had changed forever. His tandem with David Robinson, brought the Spurs its first ever NBA title. And when the Admiral retired, Duncan carried on the winning legacy, along with the back court tandem of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and the Spurs earned three more championships in alternating seasons. For his own fair share of glory, Timmy was the Rookie of the year, won the MVP award back to back in 2002 and 2003, was three-time finals MVP. As an all-star, he has had 13 appearances. And as the “Big Fundamental” of the Spurs, Duncan helped lead the franchise with the longest streak of playoff appearances since he came over more than a decade ago.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end.
Duncan is now in the last year of his contract with the Spurs. And at 35, Duncan is “old” compared to the guys running up and down the court these days. The team has never added much of a younger line-up in their starters nor in their bench, with the exception of rookie Kawhi Leonard, who was the second highest pick of San Antonio next to Duncan. The combined age of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili is 98, more than thrice the combined age of some of NBA’s franchise trios.
It won’t be long before the curtains finally come down on these three.
Last year would have been the best shot for San Antonio for a championship. With a 61-21 record last season, the Spurs posted their second best regular season record on wins and losses. However, they were sent fishing early by the 8-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, laden with a much younger roster of players. The exit from contention last season was taken by many as the clearest and most latest indication that, indeed, the glory days of the Spurs are about to end.
The same can be said about Duncan as well.
But the fact that he’s returning for one final season clearly means one thing–Tim Duncan should never be written off just yet.
They just earned their first win on opening night against the very same Grizzlies they fought plus Rudy Gay. And their mettle will be further tested when they face off with the new-and-improved LA Clippers. With all the hype surrounding the Clippers, it seems the Spurs are in for a tough night when Blake Griffin’s squad visit them tomorrow.
But like any competitor who loves the challenge, Duncan can probably be heard saying “Bring it on!”
We may never know what Duncan has yet in store for us, if indeed he is about to wrap up his colorful career with the final 66 games of his NBA life.
One thing’s for sure–Tim Duncan’s games must never be missed this year.
Twelve more games remaining in the regular season for the league-leading San Antonio Spurs. Only one of the last dozen teams are out of playoff contention (the Sacramento Kings). The other eleven are itching to steal one against them.
Most specially with Tim Duncan out on injury.
The 34-year old all-star forward incurred a sprained ankle during their game against the Golden State Warriors last Monday. Duncan picked up a dime from Tony Parker, attacked the basket for an easy lay-up, but ended up disturbing his ankles when he tried to avoid landing on Ekpe Udoh’s feet. The four-time champion had to be assisted as he limped his way out of the court.
Spurs GM RC Buford confirmed reports that Duncan will be missing the next three road games, beginning with the tip-off at Denver, but also said it can extend up to three more games, depending on the final results of the upcoming X-rays. An MRI test done on Duncan gave the breather after it was found out that he did not break or fracture a bone with his akward landing. The swelling, however, is a severe one, that had Duncan grimacing in pain even after immediate aid was administered.
Despite losing Duncan that night, the Spurs cruised to a 111-96 win over the Warriors, the 25th consecutive home win against an opponent, the longest active streak of that sort in the league. The Spurs are looking to sweep Denver this season with a win on Wednesday. This is the first face-off between Denver and San Antonio since Carmelo Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks.
Duncan has been averaging career lows this season, but his teammates all resoundingly say his presence has been the key for their outstanding performance this year. The Spurs are poised to break the franchise record of 63 wins set during the 2005-2006 season with the rate they are playing. But this was a prognosis given prior to Duncan’s injury. The prediction has yet to face the biggest challenges in the next twelve games.
Coach Gregg Popovich expects two bench players, Tiago Splitter and Steve Novak to fill in the void that Duncan has left probably for the remainder of the season. After Denver, the Spurs are facing Portland and Phoenix twice each, Memphis, Boston, Houston, Utah, Sacramento, Atlanta, and LA. Seven of these games will be road games (San Antonio is 24-10 on the road, 33-3 at home), including a game against a possible playoff opponent in Memphis, and a game against the Lakers. The standings can still change, especially with the defending champs just seven games behind the Spurs.
The Spurs are still confident about how they will be handling the games. Coach Pop expressed that this is a good time to test the mettle of the team now that their anchor player is sitting out for the next few games. Nonetheless, a team devoid of a player whose playoff and championship experiences have been tested has a lot of reasons to worry.
Even still, according to Pop, the Spurs have nothing to be afraid of.
In the words of Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, there’s a new sheriff.
Derrick Rose scored a career-high 42 points to lead the Chicago Bulls past the San Antonio Spurs, 109-99 in the first of two final games of the season just before All-Star break at LA(the Dallas-Phoenix game continues to ensue as of this writing).
The Bulls avenged a defeat handed them by San Antonio last November 17, a 103-94 loss that did not include a healthy Carlos Boozer on the roster. This time, Boozer gave a 15-point contribution to the cause, the only other double-digit scorer aside from Rose and Luol Deng. From the side of the Spurs, Tony Parker scored 26 and Manu Ginobili with 16. The Spurs, despite the high scoring output of most of their players, were sorely out-rebounded by Chicago, 41-29. The Bulls were also more accurate with their field goals and free throws compared to the Spurs, who will close out their annual Rodeo Road Trip with a 6-3 win-loss card.
The win further certified Rose’s run for an MVP award, just a year after he won Rookie of the Year honors. Rose is appearing in his first All-Star game as a starter for the East, alongside Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire. Meanwhile for the Spurs, Tim Duncan and Ginobili will wear the West jerseys as reserves.
The Spurs are now 46-10, while the Bulls have a 38-16 record. The Spurs are still the only team on the 40-win mark, and are leading all teams in the league by at least 6 games.