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Spurs need Duncan to step up if they want to reach the Finals

Jun 3, 2012, 12:41 AM EDT


Tim Duncan‘s legacy is largely beyond reproach. The man has four NBA titles to his name, is one of the two greatest players of his generation, and just recently became the all-time playoff leader in blocked shots.

And yet, his play in the Western Conference Finals hasn’t been all that special.

Duncan will get a pass from his coach and his teammates, and probably even from his fans for his lackluster performance in this series against the Thunder, one that his Spurs now find themselves all tied up in at two games apiece.

The reality is, though, that if Duncan doesn’t assert himself and play to his full capabilities for the remaining two or three games of these Western Conference finals, his Spurs may be done.

Sure, Duncan was 9-of-17 shooting in Game 4 for a team-high 21 points. But his offense came very quietly, and had virtually no impact in a game where his team desperately needed one.

No one is saying that Duncan is no longer capable of dominating a game offensively for his Spurs; in fact, it’s the opposite. San Antonio needs to feature its Hall-of-Fame big man to the point where he touches the ball on nearly every possession, with the decision to shoot or make the pass to the open man lying completely on his intelligent and capable shoulders.

In the first two rounds of the playoffs, Duncan was efficient and magnificent; excuse me for channeling my inner Clyde Frasier. He shot 23-of-49 from the field in the first round against the Jazz, and 38-of-64 from the field in the second round against the Clippers.

Those shooting numbers were good for marks of 47 percent and 59 percent respectively. Against the Thunder in this series, Duncan is just 22-of-58, for just 38 percent.

Now, it’s easy to argue that Tony Parker‘s individual performance is more important to his team’s chances, considering the explosive ability he has to not only score, but to create easy opportunities for his teammates. But Parker has to perform at a certain level for the Spurs to even be within contention; to push them over the top, Duncan is the one who has to raise his game.

The Spurs have made it this far in the postseason with a surgical level of execution from role-players and stars alike. They had been getting timely shots off of open looks from seemingly everyone who touched the ball, after a series of screens and well-timed passes made their way into the hands of whomever was open at the time. But the offense by committee has stagnated in Games 3 and 4 in Oklahoma City.

For the Spurs to get back on track, take control of this series, and earn themselves a trip to the NBA Finals, they’ll need Duncan to step up one last time and deliver as we know he can. San Antonio needs to feature him, and let him go to work against the Thunder’s front line. The defense has shifted its focus to slowing Parker and Manu Ginobili on the perimeter; it’s time for San Antonio to trust Duncan in this series, just as they have in so many series past.

  1. redbullenergydrink - Jun 3, 2012 at 12:56 AM

    Maybe game 4 will remind everyone the Spurs are not a lock for the championship. A week ago, almost all their fans had them crowned.

  2. jizzojames - Jun 3, 2012 at 4:07 AM

    “For the Spurs to get back on track, take control of this series, and earn themselves a trip to the NBA Finals, they’ll need Duncan to step up ONE LAST TIME and deliver as we know he can.”

    So let me get this right.. Duncan steps up one last time to get to the finals and then that’s it? WRONG!! Duncan should step his game up some more to give the Spurs that extra push, but he’s gonna need to raise his game and keep it there in order for them to get to the finals and WIN!!

  3. mungman69 - Jun 3, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    I’m surprised that the Spurs lost BOTH games at OKC. Now we have a real series. Not a lot of crying like in the east finals.

  4. madmediaman - Jun 3, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    The problem for the Spurs now has little to do with Duncan’s play and more to do with solving the problem the Thunder created when they moved Thabo Sefolosha over to guard Tony Parker. Until they figure that out the Spurs will continue to sputter.

  5. purnellmeagrejr - Jun 3, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    If you want to channel CLyde “Frazier” dish and swish to your heart’s content- there is no Frasier unless that’s the name of the TV psychiatrist – in which case – goood luck.

  6. jksee - Jun 3, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    Don’t think Duncan can “step up” his play. He has but one level and that’s it.

  7. connaniii - Jun 3, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    I believe the answer might be to start both Parker and Ginobili and go from there; Ginobili could play the point position thus making Parker an off guard, not a true shooting guard and remember Parker can beat anyone off the dribble. Sephalosha would have to follow Parker anywhere he goes and if he (Parker) stays outside the zone Sephalosha´s rebounding would be neutralized!

    • savvybynature - Jun 3, 2012 at 10:42 PM

      That should work to some degree but not sure Manu can last playing 40 minutes a game. They will need role players to step up when one of the two aren’t on the court, but I guess that’s what HCA is for.

  8. ragingmouse - Jun 4, 2012 at 12:43 AM

    The problem is definitely Duncan!

    Great player, just not tough enough or lacks mental fortitude to take over a game and set the tone…

    He is playing not to lose vs dominating and winning the series…


  9. 11jlacy - Jun 5, 2012 at 12:34 AM

    The beard came though and also westbrook had 12 dimes to ya dig okc fa real man look out.

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