SAN ANTONIO — One of the most amazing parts of a stunning comeback by the Spurs in Game 1 against the Warriors Monday night was that they did it without their foundational player, who was stricken by a severe intestinal illness.
But Tim Duncan said he’s already feeling much better and hopes to go the distance in Game 2 on Wednesday night at the AT&T Center (9:30 ET, TNT).
“Rough night last night, getting over this sickness,” Duncan said Tuesday. “It kind of caught up to me later in the game. But probably the best thing for the team was me was going out.
“I couldn’t (play) at that point. I wanted to, but I was hurting us out there. I couldn’t move. It was the right thing to do for me to get out of there. I knew I’d have some difficulty. I just didn’t think it would be at that level.”
Duncan gutted out 34 minutes, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds before Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made the command decision to remove him from the game. The Warriors upped their lead to 104-88 soon after he left with 4:31 remaining in the fourth quarter and headed to the locker room. That was precisely the time when San Antonio’s improbable rally began.
Duncan’s teammates said they were unaware that the 37-year-old was ailing through the first two quarters of the game. But Manu Ginobili said the problem became evident in the second half.
“I realized in a timeout, where his eyes were lost and he couldn’t raise his head. Pop was talking to him and he was not looking. He was staring at the floor.”
“It became pretty apparent that he wasn’t going to tell me the truth anymore, so I had to pull the plug myself,” Popovich said. “He’s a competitor and he didn’t want to come off the floor.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams in NBA playoff history had been 0-392 when trailing by 16 or more points with four minutes or less left in the game.
However, Duncan’s teammates rallied in his absence, playing flawlessly down the stretch, shooting 6-for-6 from the field and ending with Danny Green’s 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime.
Duncan came back onto the court for the last six seconds of the first overtime and the final second of the second overtime. He spent the rest of the time in the Spurs’ training room, suffering physically and mentally.
“It was unbelievable,” Duncan said. “I was in the locker room watching it, and I see us getting closer and closer. I debated even coming back out there. Whatever superstition it might be, I wanted to stay right where I was. It felt bad coming out there and they get a lead again.
“It was great just to see the guys and everything going the way we wanted to go. A lot of credit to Golden State; they were unbelievable. Steph Curry put on a show out there. But we stuck with it and used every minute that we had. It was just an unbelievable game to be a part of.”
The 14-time All-Star hopes to be part of all of Game 2.
“Another day and a half, I hope to have it out of my system,” he said.”