Tim Duncan slumping because his midrange game has deserted him

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Tim Duncan has not scored in double digits for three straight games.

For Duncan, that is career first. It’s shocking. The guy is an automatic double-double machine, one of the best basketball players walking the face of the earth — even if people don’t know his name.

But this season he has been off, and the last three games in particular it has been bad (in part due to recovery from the flu). He admitted as much to the Express-News.

“I wish I was playing well and could say I was happy about not playing a lot of minutes,” said Duncan, his scoring average currently at 13.4 points per game — 7.7 points under a glittery career average and 4.5 points under last season’s production. “But it will come. As long as we can all stay healthy and keep the wear and tear off each other, it’s best for the team.”

It is more than just scoring, he is grabbing one less rebound, getting fewer minutes and shots (which is the main reason rebounding and scoring are down) and has not looked comfortable as he has worked to adjust to a Spurs team that is running more and needing him less.

Duncan just hasn’t looked himself. Why? Maybe because once rock solid midrange game has left him.

According to Hoopdata, last season Duncan took 2.9 shots per game from 10-15 feet out and hit 42.2 percent of them. He has basically done those same numbers for years and years — this is his deadly 12-foot bank from the wing, his sweet shot from the high post.

This season, he is taking 1.3 per game from there, making just 25 percent. His numbers everywhere else are pretty comparable to previous seasons (he is getting one less shot a game at the rim).

In the last three games, he is 2-for-11 from the rim out to 10 feet, 0-2 on shots from 10-15. In those three games his is 4-18 overall when he steps away from the rim.

This is not likely to last — it’s hard to imagine Tim Duncan’s shooting touch just going away. He’ll find it, and in the interim the Spurs are loaded with big men who can play the four and contribute — DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter. They can afford to wait on Duncan.

But still, it’s hard not to see a 34-year-old Duncan with a lot of miles on him and wonder if this is him starting to really slip. I wouldn’t bet on it come playoff time, but maybe.