It wasn’t necessarily a surprise that a Spurs team with the best record in the Western Conference would bounce back from an embarrassing, blowout loss to one of the league’s bottom-feeders that they suffered in Minnesota on Tuesday.
The performance from Tim Duncan that led them there, however, was definitely a bit unexpected.
Duncan was active, energetic, and even a bit emotional on the way to scoring 28 points and grabbing 19 rebounds to save the day against the Mavericks, as San Antonio held off Dallas to come away with the 92-91 victory.
Tony Parker, by far the Spurs’ best and most important player this season, missed his fifth straight game due to an ankle injury that’s expected to keep him out for a few more weeks. In his absence, the Spurs have been uncharacteristically blown out a couple of times, losing by 24 to the Timberwolves on Tuesday, and by 30 at home to the Blazers the Friday before that.
In between, of course, was a 12-point home win over the Thunder, so the Spurs are capable of putting it together at any time. Thursday night against the Mavs, they just needed an all-out assault from Duncan to make sure the win was theirs.
And even that almost wasn’t enough.
San Antonio had statistical advantages in most of the major categories throughout this game, but some timely Dallas runs had this one in jeopardy for the Spurs at various points all night, including during the game’s final possession.
With the Spurs leading by one and the Mavericks holding possession with five seconds remaining, the ball found Vince Carter at the top of the three-point arc, and he fired a three-pointer with a second remaining that rimmed out, and the victory for the Spurs was secured once the final buzzer sounded.
It shouldn’t have come to that, of course, considering San Antonio’s eight-point lead with about two and a half minutes remaining. But the Mavericks have been better of late, winning four straight coming into Thursday’s contest, and sitting just two and a half games out of the eighth playoff spot in the West.
A 6-16 night from Dirk Nowitzki on the same night O.J. Mayo goes 4-11 usually isn’t going to be enough for Dallas, however, and when Duncan has it going like he did, the Spurs are going to be tough to stop.
It was only the second game all season where Duncan hauled down at least 19 rebounds, and only the fourth game in which he put up at least 28 points. It was the first time this year he reached both thresholds in the same game.
Dallas will continue to scramble towards a playoff spot as the season comes to a close, but it’s going to be tough to get there given the early-season hole the team fell into with Nowitzki sidelined. The Spurs will be just fine, of course, proving for the second time in three games that they can win without Tony Parker against a more -than-solid team.
Meanwhile, it appears that Tim Duncan will simply keep doing what he does, for as long as he can.