SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tim Duncan will play Saturday when San Antonio hosts the Houston Rockets after missing the previous three games.
The team made the announcement on Thursday. Duncan sat out San Antonio’s win Monday against Minnesota for rest, but missed the next two home games because of soreness in his right knee.
Houston snapped San Antonio’s seven-game winning streak with an 88-84 victory on Christmas Day. It’s the Spurs’ lone loss in their past 11 games.
Duncan missed three games earlier this season for rest. The 39-year-old forward is averaging a career-low 9.0 points, but has deferred much of his offense to emerging star Kawhi Leonard and newly acquired LaMarcus Aldridge.
Duncan is averaging 8.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while anchoring a defense that’s limiting opponents to a league-low 88.6 points.
“I think we could use him,” said Spurs guard Danny Green, with a smile. “I think we can find a spot for him somewhere.”
San Antonio is off to the second-best start in franchise history on the strength of a franchise-record, 19-game winning streak at home to open the season.
The Spurs are 6-0 without Duncan, winning those games by an average of 24 points.
That success has more to do with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich strategically sitting Duncan rather than the team no longer needing the future Hall of Famer, Spurs forward Boris Diaw said.
“It’s just fortunate that when he couldn’t play, it was games that we should win,” Diaw said. “It was not against the best teams every time he has been out.”
Teams that San Antonio played without Duncan are a combined 63-110, including a pair of games against Denver and a 51-point victory over Philadelphia on Dec. 7.
The Spurs are facing a much tougher test Saturday against intrastate rival Houston.
“We’ve got to play better,” Diaw said. “Basically, we missed shots last time we played them. We didn’t get in a good rhythm, they played pretty aggressive and we didn’t respond to that. We’ve got to turn that around by using their aggressiveness to our advantage.”
Duncan had 13 points and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes against the Rockets in Houston.