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BY SPENCER LUND
Tim Duncan (photo. Jonathan Mannion)
It’s been said enough to be cliche that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But you can teach a younger-ish dog old tricks, so maybe that’s the bright side to Tim Duncan‘s play against Marc Gasol on Saturday night. Maybe the Big Fundamental provided Gasol a blueprint for league domination moving forward? Regardless of whether Gasol learned anything, Tim Duncan is playing like he can still recite formulas from his freshman year statistics class at Wake Forest. The Spurs’ ageless big man showed the Grizzlies up-and-coming big man who was still the Western Conference boss.
After last week’s “Restgate” and the ensuing national debate, that even made the front page of Saturday’s New York Times (yes, I still get the weekend paper delivered), the Spurs went to overtime against Memphis on Saturday night. They stormed back from 15 points down in the third quarter and beat the streaking Grizzlies in the extra session. I wonder where they got the legs to overcome such a large fourth quarter deficit and push for the extra five minutes? Anyway, despite the attention paid to Popovich’s decision and Stern’s ensuing $250,000 fine, the game between the two teams with the best records in the Western Conference did not disappoint, and neither did Tim Duncan, who outplayed Marc Gasol for most of the first half, stripped Gasol of the ball to begin overtime, and then stripped him again to rob him of an easy layup later in overtime. Tim Duncan isn’t done yet.
Tim Duncan's Offense In the First Half - YouTube
In the first period, Duncan started the game missing his first two jumpers. After getting that out of his system, he made his next three field goals over the rest of the first segment, including a dunk on Gasol, a primordial yelp and subsequent stare down I can’t remember ever witnessing from Duncan throughout his career. He then missed his first jumper to start the second quarter, and made his next five buckets, not to mention 4-for-4 from the line. All told, he finished the first half shooting 8-for-11 from the field and 4-for-4 from the line for 20 first half points and eight rebounds. He was a beast, and there wasn’t much Gasol could do. Marc Gasol Offense in the Third Period - YouTube
It’s not that Gasol was helpless though. He had eight first half points, which isn’t bad; it just wasn’t dominant enough to match Duncan’s shooting from the outside, and his bruising of Gasol and Z-Bo down low. Gasol would have his revenge in the third period though, as Memphis built their 15-point lead. He dropped 12 points in the third to match the total Duncan scored in the second. Most of his points came off his fluffy jumper from the elbow, his preferred spot to run the offense, but he also had a putback over Duncan. All told, Gasol was 6-for-7 from the period and it looked like Duncan and the Spurs would lose out to the younger, more contemporary Grizzlies.
After a fourth quarter that saw very little from either Gasol or Duncan, but a lot from Tony Parker, the game went to overtime. It was in overtime, though, where Duncan showed a willful Gasol what will really was. With under four minutes left in OT and San Antonio ahead by one, Gasol received the ball on the right elbow, facing Duncan. As Gasol swung the ball to his left side, Duncan stuck his hand in and knocked the ball away. Gasol, a master of the hyperbolic reaction to contact, reacted by flailing his arms and hoping there would be a whistle. Instead, Manu Ginobili picked up the loose ball and Tony Parker put in a layup on the other end of the court for a three-point San Antonio lead.
Timmy wasn’t limited to just defense in overtime, either. With a little over a minute to play and San Antonio ahead by five, Tony Parker drove for a layup, and Gasol rotated over to contest the attempt. Parker’s shot rimmed out, but since Gasol was helping over on Parker, that left Duncan unprotected in the lane. He tapped it in for the bucket and a seven-point San Antonio lead. Duncan in Overtime - YouTube
The final instance of Duncan’s OG play against Gasol this past Saturday happened with under a minute remaining in overtime and the Spurs ahead by five. As Duncan came down into the lane to defend Gasol under the basket, he tripped (or was shoved – just slightly – by Gasol) and hit the floor. Zach Randolph’s lefty hook attempt – like most of his shots on the night (he was 6-for-21 from the field) – fell off the rim and into Gasol’s waiting hands. Duncan was on the floor, and Gasol was standing right beside the basket, so it’s an easy rebound layup for Gasol and the Grizzlies are back in it. Except, Duncan strips the ball from Gasol’s hands while he’s on the floor, and it trickles out of bounds.
There’s no way to learn that last play by Duncan; he just instinctually stuck with the play and did what he could, which ended up being enough to prevent the easy basket. Unfortunately for Gasol and his Grizzlies teammates, the Spurs and their aging big man did just enough for the victory to retain their spot as the team to beat in the Western Conference. For Marc Gasol and his teammates, they can use this game to motivate them further. It’s what Duncan and the Spurs would do.