HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — After he blocked five more shots Wednesday night to give him 12 in the last two games and 26 over the last six, Tim Duncan went scientific to explain his spike in swats.
“Guys are coming at me and I’m doing what I have to do. I don’t know why or what it is,” a typically low-key Duncan told reporters after the San Antonio Spurs blitzed the division-rival Memphis Grizzlies, 103-82. “I’m not doing anything different defensively. It is what it is.”
But really, it is science.
Reinvigorated and revamped nutrition and training efforts over the last couple seasons have Duncan looking as muscularly lean and playing as physically strong as ever. At age 36 (and he’ll turn 37 during the first round of the playoffs), Duncan is crafting a season to behold and one that should land him back in the All-Star Game for a 14th appearance. He won’t get in as a starter, which are voted on by the fans (and revealed tonight at 7 ET on TNT), but as a reserve selected by the Western Conference coaches.
Duncan is averaging 17.2 ppg and 9.6 rpg, his best numbers in both categories since the 2009-10 season. But it’s his increased blocked shots that are truly remarkable. He has 111 blocks in 40 games, already 23 more than he had last season — a 58-game lockout-shortened campaign. He’s 35 blocks shy from the 146 he recorded in 76 games in 2010-11.
His block total ranks second in the league, five behind Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders. He’s three ahead of Roy Hibbert, five in front of last season’s king of swat, Serge Ibaka, and has 19 more than Dwight Howard, who has 92 blocks in 35 games.
All four players, with 21 NBA seasons among them (compared to Duncan’s 16), are between nine and 13 years Duncan’s junior.
In eight games in January, Duncan is averaging 3.86 bpg, and over his last 15 games he’s posted at least two blocks in each game while averaging 3.27 blocks in that span. On the season, his 2.75 bpg ranks as his highest average in a decade. He’s well on pace to average at least 2.5 blocks for the seventh time in his career, a mark he hasn’t reached since the 2004-05 season. He hasn’t averaged at least 2.0 blocks since the 2006-07 season.
Meanwhile, Duncan continues to be Mr. Durable. He has played in 40 of the Spurs’ 41 games, missing only the infamous Miami Heat matchup on TNT when coach Greg Popovich ordered Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green to cut short the team’s extended road trip. He’s also averaging 30.1 minutes a game, up from each of the last two seasons.
Duncan is doing it all this season and everyone’s welcome to his block party.