Skip to content

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

Jun 12, 2013, 6:42 PM EST

SPO-BASKET-NBA-FINALS-SPURS-HEAT Getty Images

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.”

Latest Posts
  1. Russell Westbrook takes knee to face, it leaves dent (VIDEO)

    Feb 28, 2015, 11:30 AM EST

    Russell Westbrook AP

    He was evaluated by doctors after the game Friday.

  2. Former All-Star, popular Knick Anthony Mason dies at age 48

    Feb 28, 2015, 10:33 AM EST

    Anthony mason knicks Getty Images

    He had been in the hospital for weeks following multiple heart attacks.

  3. Langston Galloway three forces overtime, Knicks go on to victory (VIDEO)

    Feb 28, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    New York Knicks v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    The Knicks got the double OT win in Detroit, this shot was key.

  4. Russell Westbrook posts third straight triple-double, Thunder lose anyway

    Feb 28, 2015, 8:00 AM EST

    Russell Westbrook AP

    Westbrook is averaging a triple-double over his last five games.

  5. Knicks’ Alexey Shved misses shot about as badly as you can (VIDEO)

    Feb 28, 2015, 1:02 AM EST

    Boston Celtics Vs. New York Knicks TD Garden Getty Images

    To quote Bob Uecker, “juuuuust a bit outside.”

  6. Rumor: Baron Davis planning an NBA comeback. Stop laughing, he’s serious.

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:00 PM EST

    Jordan Brand Melo M9 Shoe Launch Getty Images

    There is about as much chance of me getting a date with Emily Ratajkowski this weekend as there is of this actually happening.

  7. What’s the best way to defend Kings’ cherry-picking idea?

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:00 PM EST

    NBA teams are considering the question

  8. Daryl Morey believes two bad shots are better than one good shot (always), but data wasn’t significant enough for Jeff Van Gundy to change

    Feb 27, 2015, 7:59 PM EST

    Houston Rockets Draft Picks Press Conference Getty Images

    An interesting anecdote from Morey (speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference) about how the data showed an advantage, but not one big enough for his coach to change.

  9. Re-inventing the Wheel: Mike Zarren presents modified NBA-draft-lottery-reform proposals

    Feb 27, 2015, 6:59 PM EST

    the modified draft wheel

    Instead of 30-year plan, assistant Celtics general manager unveils five-year and 10-year plans

  10. Shane Battier: ‘I think a 60-game season would be perfect’

    Feb 27, 2015, 5:30 PM EST

    Shane Battier Shane Battier

    There are financial obstacles in the way of dropping 22 games from the schedule, but Battier makes a somewhat compelling case.

  11. Kyrie Irving has strained left shoulder, out Friday vs. Pacers

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:56 PM EST

    Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Getty Images

    He’s day to day. (Insert your Keith Olberman joke here.)

  12. NBA to release “Last Two Minutes” officiating reports through end of season, playoffs

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:30 PM EST

    Boston Celtics Vs. Brooklyn Nets At TD Garden Getty Images

    It’s not going to change most fans’ minds, but it’s a good first step.

  13. Report: Highest bid for Atlanta Hawks currently $800 million

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:45 PM EST

    Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six Getty Images

    Don’t be surprised if another bidder comes in over the top.

  14. Report: If Ray Allen return to NBA this season it will not be with Cleveland

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:15 PM EST

    Ray Allen Getty Images

    Don’t expect him to return, but if he does Cleveland appears off the list.

  15. The time Michael Jordan asked Common to forge his signature (VIDEO)

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:45 PM EST

    87th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet Getty Images

    Turns out Common was a Bulls ball boy back in the early Jordan era in Chicago, so he and Michael Jordan had some laughs together.

  16. Jeff Van Gundy to Daryl Morey when he flinched at using analytics to make a decision: ‘Either you believe in this sh-t or you don’t’

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:14 PM EST

    Game One Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Eastern Conference Finals Game One Getty Images

    The data said that Dikembe Mutombo was better than Yao Ming, but Morey wasn’t ready to make that call.

Featured video

Is Derrick Rose the next Penny Hardaway?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (8098)
  2. D. Rose (7739)
  3. S. Curry (7417)
  4. D. Howard (7194)
  5. P. George (6658)
  1. M. Carter-Williams (6586)
  2. A. Davis (6236)
  3. B. Beal (6064)
  4. R. Westbrook (5965)
  5. C. Bosh (5756)