If Thursday night's loss to Oklahoma City was Tim Duncan's final game in the NBA, it's one he would like to forget.
The surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer may have had a throwback 19-point performance, but his Spurs never trailed by fewer than double digits in the second half of a rout that sent the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals. In the end, a 67-win team laced with veteran talent and NBA Champions failed to advance to the league's Final Four.
On Thursday, the culprit was a younger, fresher Oklahoma City team. While Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were the headliners (65 points between them), a balanced attack from players like second-year center Steven Adams and third-year forward Andre Roberson gave the Thunder the 48-minute attack needed to bury San Antonio.
In the end, the Spurs couldn't keep up. When Duncan and Tony Parker left the court for a breather, the Thunder ran through San Antonio's bench to put this game out of reach. Gregg Popovich played 11 different players in the game's first 15 minutes as he sought a solution to his team's cold shooting. Unfortunately for the veteran coach, there was no sideline panacea on Thursday night. By the time a Duncan/Kawhi Leonard/LaMarcus Aldridge/Andre Miller-led lineup started to gel, it was too late for the Spurs to make a comeback in earnest.
Was this the last we've seen of Tim Duncan?
There's no way around it. This was the worst postseason performance of Tim Duncan's career.
In last year's playoffs, he averaged 17.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while shooting 58.9 percent from the field. In 2016, his numbers slumped to 4.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and a vile 38.9 percent mark before Thursday's 19-point showing. His regular season was better, but still plagued by the ravages of time that Duncan had so effortlessly kept at bay as he entered his late 30s.
Duncan is still a useful player. He's a veteran leader who isn't just a Spur -- he is the Spurs. He willed himself to his best performance in over a month when his team's back was against the wall, and led the comeback effort that fell short in the fourth quarter of Thursday's loss. There's still life in the Big Fundamental's game, but the only person who knows if he'll be back for a 20th season is Duncan.
The Spurs' cold shooting allowed the Thunder to take charge
San Antonio seemed to be playing on carnival rims in the first half, as shot after shot clanked off the interior of the rim and caromed back to the court. The visitors had plenty of open looks, but they made only 31.1 percent of their field goals -- and missed all eight of their three-point attempts -- while Oklahoma City ran off to a 24-point halftime lead. In case you needed a visual on just how ugly that looks in chart form:
Unless the Spurs were right next to the rim, they weren't scoring in the first half. That's what turned an early six-point lead into an unfixable deficit on Thursday night.
Can the Thunder beat the Warriors in a Best-of-Seven Series?
Oklahoma City went 0-3 against the 72-win Warriors this winter, losing by an average deficit of nearly nine points per game. However, two of those losses came on the road, and one was decided by a Stephen Curry 38-foot shot in the final seconds. Granted, that's not the same kind of fluke it would be if say, Festus Ezeli bombed in a half-court three, but it's still encouraging news for a Thunder team that is hitting its stride in the postseason.
Durant and Westbrook already have the scalp of a 67-win team on their mantle. The added contributions of starters Adams (15 points, 11 rebounds on Thursday) and Roberson (14 points) can give them the dynamic scoring to keep pace with Golden State's high octane attack. And while Tony Parker and Danny Green are in no way, shape, or form Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, it's worth noting OKC held the Spurs' guards to just 10-of-28 shooting (35.7 percent) to hamstring San Antonio in Game 6. In fact, the defensive play of Roberson and Dion Waiters could be OKC's secret weapon to slowing down Golden State's shooters.
The Warriors just dispatched a binary star team when they eliminated Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and the rest of the Portland Trailblazers. Like Portland, Oklahoma City has two players who carry between 40 to 50 percent of its scoring load on any given night. Unlike the Blazers, the Thunder also have a cache of complimentary players who can step up to carry this team through slumps and valleys.
1 fun thing
1 sad reminder that the times, they are a-changin'
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How to survive an encounter with Russell Westbrook
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