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Tim Duncan on how the Spurs are slowing LeBron James: ‘We’re guarding him with five guys’

Jun 12, 2013, 6:42 PM EDT

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SAN ANTONIO — A day after LeBron James was held to just 15 points and didn’t get to the free throw line for a single attempt, Tim Duncan was asked to explain how in the world his team has been able to slow the league’s MVP to playing like a mere mortal for the third consecutive game.

“We’re guarding him with five guys,” Duncan said.

Kawhi Leonard has gotten the bulk of the assignment guarding James, and has done a terrific job of forcing him into where the help awaits as part of the Spurs’ team defensive scheme. But more than that has been the constant awareness by everyone on the San Antonio end of the floor just how dangerous James can be.

“We understand what kind of player he is,” Duncan said. “He’s the best player in the world, so we’re respecting him as that. We’re trying to make his life as difficult as possible every time he touches the ball. When he comes out in the open court, that’s obviously where he really thrives. If we can keep those away and keep his rhythm down, it’s better for us.”

LeBron spoke specifically about what the Spurs have been doing from an Xs and Os standpoint to be able to limit him in the series thus far.

“They’re doing a good job of when I come off pick‑and‑rolls, they have a guy shrink the floor at the elbow and getting a big in front of my body and a guy guarding to pursue the ball as well,” James said. “They are putting me in a position where they can crowd me a lot.  If I can get the ball in transition where I’m facing my defender or maybe just one other defender, I can break their defense down.”

James fully expects to be more aggressive in Game 4, and even guaranteed a better performance. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, however, said it wasn’t all about LeBron, and insisted that his defense is geared to stop whoever Miami happens to get going as long as his team sticks to its principles.

“Our team defense is not just LeBron,” Popovich said. “Just like Miami’s team defense is not just Tim Duncan or Tony Parker. Team defense is exactly what it says — it’s for everyone. You all keep bringing up LeBron, but we’re guarding other people with the same team defense that we’re guarding LeBron, and they’re guarding us with their team defense. It doesn’t change based on every single individual and every time down the court. Team D is team D.”

  1. pmx8411 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    I can also tell LBJ is frustrated with BOSH…he needs to hit his wide OPEN jump shots seriously..

    • urodaddy07 - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:11 AM

      Disagree. Bosh is a big, he needs to get to the rim. Jump shots are a bonus. They come and go, even with the best shooters. Get to he rim big man!

  2. cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    Duncan is too nice. They’re playing 5 feet away from him and making him take jump shots.

    • gostlcards5 - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      Somewhat accurate…I think TD is being vaguely descriptive of the effect of their team defensive strategy with LeBron. However, he is doing it in typical Spurs “boring” style, also while being respectful of the best player in the world.

  3. funktron2x - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    Danny Green should get far more love for his own work on LeBron. Forced him into some really tough shots, blocked one of them!

  4. mazblast - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:40 PM

    Duncan is one of the smartest players around. You can be sure he’s not disclosing the whole defensive game plan.

  5. bleedtwincitiessports - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:14 AM

    If Lebron was 3-4 inches shorter, and 10-15 lbs lighter, he’d be average. That dudes shot is so broke sometimes! it’s ridiculous, that they compare him to the all time greats! He’s good, but when teams dare you to shoot WIDE OPEN shots, and you won’t, and when you do but miss, you shouldn’t be considered as the greatest…

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