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Still feeling the repercussions of Ibaka blocking Duncan

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Coming to grips with Game 6's unsightly poetry.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With 3:14 to go in a Game 6 that the Spurs had no business slogging their way back into, Tim Duncan jumped.

The worst-kept secret in the NBA for the good part of the last decade has been that Tim Duncan rarely does it -- at least, not in the traditional two-feet-off-the-ground sort of way. Somewhere over the course of five titles, two MVPs and a war-chest of other awards, he's figured the game out in a way that precludes resorting to one of its most basic skills, outwitting players far younger and more athletic, anchoring a couple of all-time great defenses and winning more jump (?) balls than just about everybody in the modern era.

It's a quality that's spared his knees a great deal of unwanted impact, allowing him to extend a peerless career beyond the eras of the Spurs-killing Phoenix Suns and the world-beating Heatles, while sparing us fans the brunt of his eventual exit. Instead of lunging directly at his limitations, Duncan deftly skirted them, using his sense of geometry to consistently be at the right place at the right time.

So it couldn't have been scripted any better that Duncan, the towering quintessence of Spurs basketball for nearly two decades, had the ball in his hands with the chance to make the biggest play yet in what was starting to loosely resemble the largest comeback in playoffs history.

Rolling off a screen, he received a great bounce pass from Kawhi Leonard, gathered and left his feet -- directly towards the hoop, and Serge Ibaka.

It's possible the wrap-around pass to LaMarcus Aldridge may have been there for a more lithe, not-so-40-year-old center. But Ibaka may have just as easily gotten a hand on that, anyway.

What he decided in that instant was to place trust in his ability to put the ball in the basket for what would have been his 21st point of the game. It was a single possession boiled down to a singularly poetic moment: a well-designed play of good intentions met by a superior athlete with opposing intentions. It's not too great a leap to see the parallels between it and the series on the whole, with the ensuing block affirming and helping ensure the final result.

Duncan was still getting to his feet by the time Oklahoma City's two stars had raced the ball up the floor for the quick slam, bumping the lead back to 13. Gregg Popovich answered with a timeout and the Thunder players rejoiced, affording the Big Fundamental a moment to collect himself amid the cheers of some 18,200 screaming fans.

We'd seen a similar look on his face before -- most notably following his Game 7 miss against Miami in 2013 -- but there was no defiant floor slap this time. Duncan stood, his head hanging low long enough for the cameras to zoom in on his tired face, and then he walked alone back to the bench.

It was as precipitously human a moment you see in sports. Fandom can be torturous enough on its own, and aging is that malady that binds us all, including our beloved icons -- to see the fallout of both represented at the same time felt, at best, prophetically significant and, at worst, still worth writing about.

Figuratively speaking, it's crystal clear what it all means. But I've literally got no idea what a man who's surprised us time and time again will do. For now I'll just thank him for last season and that exhilarating fourth quarter of Game 6 that made me believe almost anything was possible.