One of the craziest streaks in the NBA continued tonight as the Spurs beat the Warriors 104-93, extending their home dominance over Golden State to 29 straight games. And barring a playoff matchup come May, it's a run that won't be stifled for quite some time.
The last time the Dubs won in San Antonio? Valentine's Day ... in 1997.
Tim Duncan was still in college.
In a game where the streaky Argentine struggled to score, Ginobili dropped nine points in the final frame and was responsible for the two dagger 3-pointers in the final minute and a half that put the game away for San Antonio. Manu had 16 points and seven assists off the bench, overcoming a poor shooting night and four turnovers to put the nail in the coffin against a dangerous Warriors bunch.
But this one belonged to Duncan. Over his last three contests, the Big Fundamental is averaging 27.7 points, 14.7 rebounds, four assists and nearly three and a half blocks per game. The Duncan of old, the pre-knee-injury Timmy, looks to be back.
At least from our perspective.
Everything was falling for the big man against the Golden State frontcourt, much of his production coming with Andrew Bogut glued to his hip. Duncan was knocking down the baseline fadeaway off the glass, the floating jumper from the left elbow and the running hook across the lane. Not to mention the stand-still mid-range shot he's been trying to recover for his arsenal in recent weeks.
"Timmy has his rhythm back," Gregg Popovich stated following the game. "He's in great shape and down the stretch we went through him. Manu and Timmy really decided to do that on their own and they did a great job of it."
And it was good they did because Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack got going in the fourth. The two combined for 15 points in the final quarter to make things interesting, but the Spurs' defense put the clamps on in one of its better performances in recent memory. Curry was 8-for-20 from the floor, David Lee shot 4-for-17, Bogut went 2-for-9 and Klay Thompson posted a 3-for-8 line. Even Jack the Spur-killer was held to only 14 points and seven dimes, down from the 25 and 10 he's averaged against San Antonio this season.
But for Duncan, it's a matter of getting back to the way he felt before that game against the Wizards in early February. He's a perfectionist, though. Never completely happy with his defense, his shot, his energy ... any aspect of his game. But he'll tell you he's getting close. Never all the way there, but close.
"My jump shot is coming back. It doesn't feel great," Duncan said. "So, I'll take it. I feel healthy, my body feels good and shots are going in."
That's great and all, Tim, but going 36-for-56 over the last three contests screams something other than "work in progress." And Bogut is far from a slouch. Maybe he isn't totally back from the injuries that have plagued him, but he's no Chris Kaman or Tyler Zeller. And it's not like he's just inching his way back. This is, statistically speaking, the most dominant three-game stretch Duncan has had all season. Prior to this trio of matchups, Duncan hadn't scored 25 or more points in even two consecutive games, let alone three.
And with only three other Spurs in double figures, Tim was needed yet again. Offense, defense — you name it, he dominated it. As important as his scoring has been without Tony Parker in the lineup, the team's focus as a whole has been on the other side of the court.
"I thought our defense was the best defense we've played in a couple of weeks," Pop said. "The (Oklahoma) City game and then this game are both games we played both good individually and as a team.
"All in all, I thought we did a very good job guarding a very difficult team to guard."
If the defense coming around isn't enough of a good sign, Popovich said prior to tip that we might see Parker in uniform on Friday. Whether it happens then or not, his return is looking imminent. And with Oklahoma City losing again, dropping three games behind the Spurs in the West, his reinsertion back in the lineup could come at the perfect time with a brutal three-game stretch rapidly approaching at the end of March. San Antonio is now 6-2 without Parker, exceeding many expectations along the way. But this team will need him very soon.
Starting March 27, the Spurs will play the Nuggets, Clippers and Rockets before the end of the month, three teams that have achieved winning streaks of 13 games or more. Denver is currently at that number, and the Heat have won, um ... ahem ... 24 STRAIGHT GAMES. Not to mention, that's before heading to Memphis, Orlando and Oklahoma City in the days to follow.
If there's a time for Duncan to find his shot, for the team defense to return to an elite status and for Parker to make his way back, it's right now.