Ever since Tim Duncan was drafted in 1997, only a few players (Kobe, Shaq and LeBron) have matched his success in the NBA. His accolades include 2 MVP awards, 3 Final MVPs, 4 Larry O'Brien's, Rookie of the Year and countless selections to the All-Star and All-NBA teams. 16 seasons in, he's still producing just as efficiently as he was during his prime, just in not as many minutes. He averaged nearly 18 points per game and 9.9 rebounds, essentially a double double, and is right along his career average for his per 36 minutes. He even set a career high in free throw percentage rate, and kept stellar assist and block numbers. It was not rare to see big games from him this season, such as his 31-18-6-5-2 game against Denver, his 33-11-3-2 effort against the Clippers and his 30-12-5-4 performance against Cleveland. Duncan is not close to being done. He's gotten it done in the playoffs as well, being the most stable contributor for the Spurs other than Kawhi Leonard, and until the second half of this series, Tony Parker.
The team performed admirably in the entire series, but could not get a lucky bounce or rebound to swing the game at crucial moments late in Games 6 and 7. They managed to slow down LeBron James for nearly the entire series, but the MVP would not be denied in two potential elimination games, turning up his game and drilling half of his three point attempts in the championship game. He had a triple double in Game 6 and 37 points in Game 7. Manu Ginobili disappeared in Game 6, when the Spurs had an amazing chance to put the game away, and bounced back with a solid, if turnover-plagued performance in Game 7. Tim Duncan missed a layup that could have tied the game, but the Heat did their part and sank mid-range jumpers early, often and late to put the game away. Dwyane Wade hit a gaggle of turnaround jumpers to get his 23 points; Shane Battier hit 5 threes and Mario Chalmers chipped in double digits once again, providing enough scoring to offset Chris Bosh's contribution of tough nosed defense and 0 points.
The silver lining? Kawhi Leonard is a bona fide stud. As a young 21 year old sophomore, he put up 19 points and 16 rebounds for the Spurs, hitting big shots and getting to the line. He took on the task of guarding LeBron James, a nearly impossible task, and did well for 5 out of 7 games. He averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and 2 steals per game in the Finals without having more than a handful of plays called for him all series long. His minutes increased and his rebounding role became more important as the series progressed. Playing as the small ball 4 for long periods, he was near the glass and regularly crashed and swooped in for boards. In the Finals, Kawhi hit 51% of his field goals and 35% from 3 point land, shining under the league's brightest lights and under the task of guarding LeBron James. He did his work in the paint for most of the series, getting dunks off fast breaks, tip ins, contorted layups and that nice floater he had to have learned from Parker and Coach Engelland.
Standard Pop Quote
"It was a great series and we all felt that. I don't know if 'enjoy' is the right word, but in all honesty, even in defeat, I'm starting to enjoy what our group accomplished already, when you look back. And you need to do that, to put in perspective. So it's no fun to lose, but we lost to a better team. And you can live with that as long as you've given your best, and I think we have."
Bonus GIF: Duncan slaps the floor
After his layup miss and tip-in attempt, this was our captain. Heartbreaking stuff.
Bird is the Word
Came away from this series with an even greater appreciation of Tim Duncan.— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) June 21, 2013
"probably for me game 7 is always going to haunt me." - Timmy— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) June 21, 2013
Tim Duncan is very, very emotional on the podium right now, and it's making me very, very sad. :(— Caleb Saenz (@calebjsaenz) June 21, 2013
"We just couldn't get over the hump. That's life. Sports." -Tony Parker— Courtside (@courtside) June 21, 2013
The Essential Hash: The Long Summer Ahead
Make sure to check out J. Gomez's recap from last night.
"Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, "It might have been."
It might have been. That's the major takeaway from this series. The Spurs were in control in Game 6 and could have pulled it out 99 times out of 100, but were on the wrong end of luck or destiny or whatever decided these last two games. They could've had a shot similar to the Heat in Game 6 but were not able to come through. Both teams were fatigued, other than LeBron James, who played spectacularly well, boosting his career scoring average to nearly 34 points per game in playoff Game 7s and first overall in league history now, thanks to his 37 point outing.
The Spurs were in the game throughout once again, but were not able to make up a small deficit late in the 4th quarter. The lead was never in the double digits, showing how evenly matched these two teams were in this series. Miami played well with their backs against the wall. Dwyane Wade responded to presumptions that he was broken down by scoring 23 and Shane Battier came through as the role player of the night, hitting 6 threes, good for 18 points. Three players carried the Spurs through a listless Game 7, as Tim Duncan (24), Kawhi Leonard (19) and Manu Ginobili (18) accounted for 61 of the Spurs' 88 points. Tony Parker had 10, and no other Spur had more than 5. Overall, the Spurs shot 37%, either due to fatigue or Miami's great defense, likely a combination of both to certain degrees. Duncan, Leonard and Ginobili scored 22 of the teams' 31 field goals, at a rate of 47%. However they were not enough for the Spurs to overcome LeBron James and the Heat.
Tony Parker's hamstring was most certainly hurting him, because he did not play up to the level he'd regularly attained when the Spurs needed him this year, as when he scored and distributed in Memphis. Without being 100% his aggressive scoring and playmaking was sorely missed. No player on either side showed up for every game this series (other than Leonard) so Tony's performance isn't unparalleled, but came at a very bad time in the season. Danny Green attempted 12 shots in Game 7, half inside the 3 point line and half outside. He only made one, a three pointer. If Green hits at least a few more threes, he could've stretched the floor better, gaining room for Parker. Green was the real X-factor for the Spurs, and decided some games entirely on his own. His great shots in Games 1-5 are now legendary, but Danny succumbed to the Heat defense swarming on him in the last two games. Once Danny put the ball on ground, fans who have followed the regular season knew that it wouldn't end well. His shooting chart
Danny Green's shooting chart; he's pretty good, you guys. pic.twitter.com/12i6SIdfUT— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) June 10, 2013
shows that he's efficient as a spot up shooter, but doesn't have the dribbling and driving skills needed to get to the paint and score against bigger defenders, a skill he will surely work on this offseason.
If a few things had gone a bit differently, the Spurs may have been celebrating their 5th championship. Instead Miami repeats as champions, having played in each of the last three Finals. Some might say that the Spurs overachieved, but I believe that they simply took the next step after falling short in the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder. The Spurs once again faced a team with a swarming and active defense and super star forwards and guards leading their potent offensive attack. Once again they fell short. So it ends.
By the Numbers
4-1 - Tim Duncan's record in the Finals. LeBron is 2-2. Dwyane Wade is 3-1, which is pretty good.
24-12 - Tim Duncan's Points-Rebounds totals. He added 4 steals and a couple of assists.
19-16 - Kawhi Leonard's ridiculous Points-Rebounds totals. He played amazingly, and has shown that the Spurs' future is bright.
14 - Turnovers for the Spurs. They had 13 assists, just under the 1:1 ratio they had on Tuesday. The Heat just executed a little better, and in tight games like these, every possession counts.
37-12-4 - LeBron James' Points-Rebounds-Assists total. It wasn't a triple double, but he once again led his team in rebounding and scoring. The Heat needed a Finals MVP performance, and they got one.
137 - Days until the next season starts.
For this Summer, the Spurs Need to...
...think about getting a free agent to sign with the team for another shot at the championship. Manu and Tiago's contracts are up this summer (along with Blair and Mills'), and it is doubtful that all four will be brought back. Thanks for reading. As one of the newbies, I really appreciate the feedback from everyone. If this series showed me anything, it's that we can't give up on Tim Duncan. He didn't give up on us.