To keep their perfect home record intact against the Phoenix Suns, the San Antonio Spurs looked to the player that has done the most damage to the Suns over the last decade.
In a turn back the clock night, Duncan lead the Spurs with 24 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots in the Spurs 102-91 victory.
24 points is the largest point total Duncan has finished a game with since he scored 28 against Denver last December. It was also enough for Duncan to move past Gary Payton into 26th place on the all-time NBA scoring list.
"I always think he has it, even on the nights he doesn't have it," Spurs forward Richard Jefferson said. "I think it's amazing how he gets all of those rebounds, blocks, and is just good on defense. He's always doing a lot of things that probably never show up in the stat sheet."
Duncan and the Spurs started slow in the first quarter, seeing the Suns score four straight points before DeJuan Blair got them on the board for the first time with 9:30 remaining in the opening quarter.
Blair's turnaround jumper kickstarted the Spurs on a 14-2 run, punctuated by a Duncan runner to beat the shot clock. That Blair-Duncan combination made up for 18 of the Spurs 30 first quarter points.
When Duncan and Blair headed to the bench at the start of the second quarter, Tiago Splitter took over, contributing eight second quarter points on a pair of dunks, a layup and two free throws in just over six minutes.
"Splitter has played good for them in the past," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "I've watched four or five of their games and what has happened is that when the second unit is in, the offense really goes through him."
"He's played pro basketball half his life so it's not anything unusual," Gentry said.
While Marcin Gortat matched Splitter's eight points, the Spurs kept the lead and got scoring help from several players while the Suns kept drawing iron.
The Spurs kept chipping away in the second quarter, with Duncan and Tony Parker leading the way against Gortat and Steve Nash.
The Suns chipped away at the Spurs' early 18-point second half lead by going on two third quarter rallies, but the Spurs still had a comfortable 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
With Gary Neal suffering a right quad strain in the second quarter, Popovich called on rookie Cory Joseph, who played some heavy fourth quarter minutes backing up Parker.
"Well, obviously you know because I left him out there for quite a while," Popovich said about his confidence level with Joseph. "He's a young, energetic player who is willing to stick his nose in. For a sophomore in college, I think he's pretty special."
Joseph spent a majority of his time in the fourth quarter alongside Danny Green and Leonard, but it was Duncan who lead the Spurs with seven fourth quarter points.
While the Suns fought back and got within five points with five minutes remaining, the Spurs were able to get second and third scoring chances off of offensive rebounds to prevent Suns scoring opportunities.
Gortat lead the Suns with 24 points and 15 rebounds, both career highs, but after the game, Gortat praised the player who defended him most of the night.
"Obviously playing against Tim Duncan is a huge challenge. He's one of the best post guys currently in the NBA if not the best," Gortat said. "It's always a pleasure to play against him and it's always great to compete against him."
"I'm always learning something new from each game I play against him," Gortat continued.
With the win, the Spurs are now 9-0 at home and are 6-2 without Manu Ginobili.
IF the Spurs want to contend for a championship, they can't do it with a jump shooting Tim Duncan. They need back to the basket, double team drawing Tim Duncan to be successful. I don't think Tim is going to shoot that shot as consistent as a guy like Nowitzki, but for now it has saved him from banging bodies down low.
I don't know why Tony has been so inconsistent, he has been his old self in a few 4th quarter situations but overall pretty unimpressive performance from him. If we want to win on the road, our star players like Tony parker have to step up.
@Spursforever69 Heres the problem with needing Duncan to be a banger down low, it will totally f the current iteration of the Spurs offense. Blair can't shoot, neither can Splitter and we all know Bonner is worthless inside the 3 point line. Duncan worked on this shot to become McDyess 2.0 within our system. He stretches the floor so Blair and Splitter can operate in the low post. Occasionally he'll come down and work in the low block, but his main role is now stretching the floor for the lesser bigs.
Who says TD is "old"? His running like a spring chicken, shooting and blocking shoots. What;s wqrong with James Anderson? Another big fat egg. Perhaps he's ready for the d-league. Keep running spurs!
Timmy 10 for 14 with a majority of his points coming from outside the paint? One of those misses from behind the arc and two from the line. Very effective night for the big fundamental. Just thought I'd throw that out.