Duncan Saves Spurs From Identity Crisis


SAN ANTONIO — All teams have their identities. Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins hardly was creating the kind of profile that would go over big on Match.com when he described his bunch as “a fat, grumpy, grubby person.”

The Spurs have their identity too, and when they trudged back out onto the court for the start of overtime, nobody carried the weight of what had happened on his shoulders more than 37-year-old Tim Duncan.

For 16 seasons, he has been their rock and foundation through four championships and now eight trips to the Western Conference finals.

For longer than many of his teammates have been out of elementary school, he has been their cool head and road map out of turns down the wrong street.

So an 18-point lead with just under two minutes left in the third quarter and a seven-point lead with a tick less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter had been swallowed up in the maw of the hungry, grubby Grizzlies. And as has been the case for more than a decade and a half, the Spurs relied on their identity to find themselves again.

Duncan took a feed from Tony Parker and dropped in a layup on San Antonio’s first possession of overtime. He grabbed a rebound off a missed jumper by Parker and converted the follow bucket. Then he did a nifty little twinkle-toe dance right down the middle of the lane and let go with an eight-foot floater that kicked high off the back rim and then settled into the net.

The old veteran who should have been the most tired guy on the floor scored every field goal by the Spurs in overtime and allowed his team to escape with a 93-89 victory that could have been a stunning flip-flop and crushing blow.

It’s easy to say the Spurs are right back where they were exactly a year ago, with a 2-0 lead and in the conference finals and maybe already peeking ahead to a stay on South Beach to kick sand with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat.

But despite their blowout win in Game 1, nothing against the growling, grabbing Grizzlies is ever easy.

And the Spurs remember well what happened exactly a year ago this time, when the Thunder pulled off a complete reversal to sweep four straight games and win the series in Game 6.

Since the first day of training camp last October, coach Gregg Popovich has described what happened to his team as “identity theft.”

The Thunder played smarter, tougher, more aggressively and more decisively. So much of the emphasis all through this season has been to insist that his team never forget and never back down from who they are.

However, the vagaries of the NBA playoff schedule, which is made up to honor the whims and wishes of TV executives, had delivered an team exhausted by an test of endurance against Golden State straight into Game 1 against Memphis with barely a chance to catch a breath. Then they had to come right back and play Game 2 on Tuesday night while LeBron and D-Wade have had time to pick out Eastern Conference finals wardrobes with a pre-Memorial Day extended weekend off.

This was a game the Spurs needed to stash into their travel bags as they head into a long-awaited three-day respite of their own to heal those playoff tweaks and aching muscles, especially those on the body of a 37-year-old walking legend.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” channeled Manu Ginobili, the Argentinian Yogi Berra. “That’s the only thing we learned.”

For the longest time, it was a night to celebrate Parker, who has been one of — if not the — best point guards in the game while flying beneath the radar of notoriety. He dealt a career-high 18 assists to go with his 15 points and rolled through the Grizzlies’ lane at will.

Late in the third quarter it appeared to be another game that has been unusually customary for the Spurs this spring, where their foundational player Duncan would not even play down the stretch.

In Game 1 of the previous series against Golden State, Duncan was suffering from a stomach ailment and it wasn’t until he left the game and went to the locker room that the Spurs began their dramatic comeback from 16 points down in the last 4 1/2 minutes to win in overtime.

In the critical Game 6 against the Warriors, Popovich took a struggling Duncan out for the final 4:28 and allowed Tiago Splitter to close out the series.

On Sunday against the Grizzlies, Duncan made a careless pass that led to a Jerryd Bayless breakaway and then missed a 14-foot jumper that brought in Matt Bonner as a sub late in the third quarter as Memphis rallied. By the time Duncan returned, the Spurs had pulled out to their biggest lead of the game without him.

It was an odd trend, said some Spurs. Merely a coincidence, said others. They couldn’t run the entire gantlet without Duncan.

And they wouldn’t.

“It was great,” Duncan said. “I was glad I was able to play in overtime … just happy to be out there and do anything.”

Everything, really, when the Spurs needed him most. Which has always been their identity.


  1. DesiOnTheLoose says:

    Spurs Fans can stop complaining any time now cause they are the inventors of flops aka Ginobli. Anybody remember the 3 point foul called on the Grizzlies before halftime of game one? Ginobli clearly flopped and acted like he was shooting a 3 when he didn’t even have control of the ball. Allens call was a Karma for you spurs. I think the Grizzlies have figured out the spurs and I wouldn’t be surprised if they Win the series.

    • MickLouis.14 says:

      Them haters gonna hate all season long. You bandwagoners gonna ride all season long.
      Spurs basketball is simple yet effective for that reason alone they are blessed to be contenders year in and year out.

      I’m not a spurs fan but I watched them play and you’ll see the heart and determination of timmy, manu and TP.
      They say spurs is so boring to watch. Not for me

    • not a kobe fan either says:

      yeah, but why’s everybody copying the original flop? Manu is playing in a very limited gametime. he manages to score 10 or prolly below it and Manu did not flop in that call it was the officials’ decision. BTW, allen is also attending the oscar award.

  2. Bruno says:

    Pop needs to be careful. He’s starting to rely too much on his vets like he did last year and lost. He needs to keep with the game plan he used all year long. Put in the bench to give the vets a rest. Then everyone can run hard the whole time. Pop, don’t forget what got you here. Spurs in 5!

    • Hello, Im Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green says:


      Kawhi Leonard?
      Danny Green?
      Tiago Splitter?
      Corey Joseph?

      These guys are real vets, right?

  3. Patty says:



  4. Gonzalo says:

    “Should Have” doesn’t exist in the playoffs.You either execute or you don’t. Great group effort by the Spurs even though down the stretch they couldn’t hit the 3 pointer to seal the deal and Memphis got back into it.Timmy really carried the load in overtime and proved why he’s the best PF of all time (In my opinion).Tough series as expected.I knew this is not going to be easy.Memphis has a great team and both teams match up well. Every game is different so you never what can happen in the “Grind House”. This series is like a chess match and I’m loving it! GOSPURSGO

  5. W/E says:

    Spurs are ready for their 5th title. They are taking care of the Grizzlies and thats what they gunna do with the Heat, they are the only team that can handle them in the Finals.

  6. xdavidx999 says:

    SPURS will come out on top.. I love how the so called “experts” always have an excuse for the oppposing team when the SPURS win and when the SPURS lose they call us old and think we’re done in the series..


  7. ball don*t lie says:

    i can’t believe your coverage doesn’t mention the travesty of the fragrant file call at the end of regular time. Manu stopped a easy layout with a foul. However, if they are going to call that a fragrant, unnesscary contact, then all hack Shaq, Dwight, etc. are fragrants.

    This game should have never gone to overtime.

    • OKCKD35 says:

      agreed. at least fine the guy. the more I watch him the dirtier I think he plays, do announcers get fined for commenting on officiating? just odd you don’t hear them really say much about it (except Van Gundy that guy cracks me up)

  8. sanjay says:

    This is over in 5 people. memphis blew it. They had so many chance to take the lead. they did not attack the paint enough! And they did not make attempt to stop free 3’s to green!

  9. Big Al says:

    Memphis should have won Game 2. The Spurs were there for the taking, scoring only 9 points in the final quarter and going into the penalty halfway through. They should have been more aggressive in the paint as San Antonio wouldn’t have defended too tightly because of the bonus. In the end, the Grizzlies had an advantage but didn’t take it. Games 3 and 4 are must-wins. I want to see the team that surprisingly beat the guys in silver in Round 1 two years ago.

    • Kalbo!! says:

      Yeah, yeah.. Here we go again with the shoulda’s & coulda’s… Spell bitterness? It’s B-i-g-A-l.. Who are you to say what they should have done? You don’t even have a single right, If you’re this smart, how come your just an imbecile commenter here? I bet the whole memphis team & organizations themselves would be so upset to know these stupid, no-brainer comments of yours, you pathetic idiot! Go kneel down and call upon your gods to bring back the team that surprisingly beat the guys in silver (which actually was ran by key players playing thru injuries) in Round 1 two years ago and go join the memphis roster yourself. Whatever the series result would be, it wouldn’t be the same exact result because this is a totally different Spurs team now as they are back to their original defensive identity. Do yourself a favor and never write a public comment again. You should be ashamed of yourself for your very low IQ.

      • msdfgh says:

        wow way to attack someone just because they dont feel the same way about a team PLAYING A GAME as you do. obviously you’re self esteem is a little too attached to the success of others, maybe its a way to cope with your personal lack of success who knows, I certainly don’t. If that is the case then maybe you should prepare yourself, because even if the spurs get past the grizz they have to deal with the heat, and that story doesnt have a happy ending for them.

      • Love the game says:

        Dude what’s your problem. Saying people got low IQ, I hope you don’t have an inferiority complex or something. The spurs won I def give them there credit, however what we I noticed was that Memphis can actually compete with this team and maybe even win the sires. The first half and second half of that game were two different games. I hope Memphis looks at this game for a source of confidence. If they play like they played in that second half then Memphis can win this series. Also one think to note that I wish people would talk more about is …. if you live by the jumper, you die by the jumper, those 3 balls aren’t going to keep coming to the spurs.

    • Go Spurs Go says:

      Despite Memphis did a great job defending in the fourth quarter, this game never had to go to OT. That happened only because T. Allen made ​​the biggest flop in the 2013 Playoffs. He receives a playoff foul, not a flagrant 1 foul, and that the decision of the referees could have completely changed the series. But, as R. Wallace “ball don’t lie” and the Spurs won the game, thanks to a great TD in OT.

    • OKCKD35 says:

      Memphis had no business being in the game, if it weren’t for the ticky tack fouls they would have not been in the bonus so early, meanwhile the spurs got 0 FT in the 4th. plus the Tony Allen flop. I would have quit watching the playoffs if Memphis won that game

  10. MHS-Western-Kris says:

    I love this team Since when i started Basketball. Simple Basketball and Fundamentals lead them to what they accomplished today.! all of the players has a ruled and take a Brilliant Shot without hessitation…!:) Kudos to my team.! Go Spurs Go.! 🙂

  11. MJfromOKC says:

    I thought only Scott Brooks and the Thunder minus Westbrook were the only team capable of giving up a 17 point lead to Memphis!

  12. TD doing his thang which is the team thang-playing like he’s 4-8 years younger. Bigups to TD!
    Go Spurs!

  13. Spurs says:

    Any news regarding on Tony Allen Flop? well he should be fined on it. He loose his head right?

    • Kalbo!! says:

      We can’t expect reversal of that call anymore.. Neither will he be fined for it or loose his head… At least, let him savor the taste of karma from this tough loss..

      • Kalbo!! says:

        What do you know? He’s after all been fined anyway… He got the worst of both worlds… They just forgot 1 thing.. Allen’s trophy.. The Emmy awards…

  14. kilroy says:

    parker has proven that he’s the best point guard this season.
    and Timmy schooling these youngsters.

    Spurs in 4 or 5

    • OKCKD35 says:

      I think Westbrook was better this year, Parker went further due to injury. On a separate note i’m glad to see the DIRTY Grizzlies lose. Tony Allen is just re-affirming my previous posts with the FLOP (phantom head injury) to get a Flagrant foul review. Just terrible, if the league does not fine him for that it just fuels the obvious favoritism toward the grizzlies in the West. For SA to get no free throws in the 4th while Memphis getting call after call to get back in the game was disgusting, kind of reminds me of Game 4 of the last round. You know the OT game where Kd got to the FT line all of 3 times while being fouled the entire game. Still don’t understandwhy they are letting all of this so called “physical play” which are fouls occur.

  15. not a kobe fan either says:

    Tim Duncan became the first player in NBA history to record 500 blocks in the postseason.
    This year could be really it.

  16. JJ says:

    The spurs are SO good. Just plain and simple basketball.
    “They’ll lose to the lakers (even w/out Kobe), well then surely the warriors will sweep them, if none of the above the grizzlies will destroy them.” – everybody say.
    But again, HATERS GONNA HATE.
    To all of you spurs’ haters, ENJOY