Duncan's delightful determination
MIAMI -- Bank shots for the ages, when smooched off the glass by a San Antonio Spur, are supposed to come from Tim Duncan.
Hasn't the backboard always been Duncan's domain?
Not any more. Yet you can safely presume that the oldest Spur, one game into a championship series he admittedly feared was out of reach, is just fine with Tony Parker stealing his move.
You could hear it in Duncan's voice on ESPN Radio late Thursday night after the Spurs secured a majestic 92-88 triumph over the Miami Heat. In the immediate aftermath of the shot-clock-beating banker Parker somehow sank to seal Game 1 of the NBA Finals, capping a crazy sequence of dribbles and stumbles on the right wing that was instantly likened to some sort of Harlem Globetrotters routine, Duncan let out a clear, happy laugh when it was suggested that he must be working with his little buddy on the geometry involved in getting the ball up and off the board just right.
"That was unbelievable," Duncan said, leaving little doubt that Parker had made that magic happen all on his own.
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Spurs F Tim Duncan dishes on San Antonio's win over the Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Tony Parker's shot that just beat the shot clock in the fourth quarter and more.
"On one knee, I don't know what the hell happened there. That was unbelievable."
It was also a touch lucky, Parker acknowledged in a subsequent "SportsCenter" visit with ESPN's Stuart Scott, but that wasn't going to bother anyone in black and silver.
"In the Finals," Parker explained, "you need a little bit of luck. And we had it tonight."
Another Finals truth: San Antonio had a lot more working in this memorable opener than mere fortune. Way too much to suggest that the Spurs have taken a 1-0 series lead mostly thanks to one especially kind bounce.
Parker had 10 of his 21 points in the final quarter and, more impressively, zero turnovers in 40 minutes. As a team, meanwhile, San Antonio returned to work from a nine-day layoff after sweeping Memphis -- supposedly covered in rust -- by committing just four turnovers, establishing a record low for a playoff game in the Duncan era.
Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, furthermore, looked rather unfazed by the shared prospect of their first Finals game, whether it was Leonard shadowing LeBron James on LeBron's 2-for-8 shooting in their direct confrontations or Green throwing in four 3s.
No one summed it up better than James: "The Spurs are the Spurs, man. They're going to put you in positions where you feel uncomfortable, offensively and defensively, and every time you make a mistake, they're going to capitalize on it."
The giddiest of them all, though, was Duncan. Maybe the most effective, too.
Having waited six years to get back here, after Duncan and the Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers and a 22-year-old named LeBron James back in 2007, Duncan has taken us inside like never before, admitting more than once just how much it means to have another shot at a ring after all those years of adhering to the buttoned-up Spurs Handbook and revealing so little.
On the eve of Game 1, in a sit-down with ESPN Radio's Mike Tirico, Duncan made the rather uncharacteristic admission that he's "probably more excited" to have this shot against the favored Heat "than I've been about any of [San Antonio's four previous trips to the Finals] thus far."
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Anyone who's watched and listened to Duncan for the past 16 seasons has come to understand that such pronouncements are not his domain.
"I'm really excited about this one," Duncan said. " Just really happy to be back.
"It seems like it's been forever not knowing if you'll ever have another chance to be on this stage or the chance to get to this point [again] and challenge for a championship."
You're tempted to even call it a good chance now after San Antonio improved its record to 5-0 in Game 1 of the Finals and after Duncan rebounded from a nightmarish first quarter (0-for-5 shooting and two quick fouls) by heading straight into the low post like the old days to get himself going, ultimately leading to a glittering stat line filled with 20 points, 14 boards and three blocks.
For the record: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the only player in NBA history older than Duncan, now 37, to post a 20-and-14 game in the Finals.
Leonard is obviously no Paul George. And Duncan no longer inspires the same fear at the rim as Indiana's Roy Hibbert. But San Antonio's team D in the fourth quarter, neutralizing James by sagging into the paint and swarming on demand, was as good as anything Miami has seen in these playoffs, heaping some immediate pressure on the reigning champs and quietly stretching the Spurs' postseason winning streak to seven.
Especially when the D is paired with Parker's ongoing playoff brilliance. The Frenchman's game, at 31, has apparently expanded to the point that he has a Duncan-esque touch off the glass and, as the ABC cameras captured, can even lead a sideline huddle in crunch time Gregg Popovich style.
"As good as he was then," Timmy said of 2007 Tony, "I think he's even better now."
Take it to the bank.
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