Tonight, the Spurs were without some key players, such as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter, but that didn’t matter with Duncan on the floor. His huge second half, where he scored 23 of his 25 points, led the charge for a team fighting to hold their own in the Western Conference while dealing with the injury bug before a much-needed All-Star break this weekend.
The amount of adversity Duncan has faced this season with the Spurs has been remarkable. Out of all the players who have been injured, he has been the constant force for San Antonio on a nightly basis in order to lead the team. Coach Gregg Popovich relies on him every game to carry the load while a number of important players sit, which makes the task that much harder for the captain. Tonight was no different when Duncan went up against the Celtics with a random cast of starters to try and get the job done on the road.
He walked onto the court with players such as Boris Diaw, Cory Joseph, Danny Green and Marco Belinelli, which is nowhere close to the starting lineup that the Spurs began the season with. However, this didn’t matter for Duncan because he knew that in order to get a victory it would be up to him to take the team on his back.
At first the task was not easy for the veteran, as Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk gave him all sorts of fits to start out the game. Their presence on the court for the Celtics posed a mismatch for Duncan down low in the early going because of their athleticism. He could not keep up the pace and forced numerous shots on offense to finish the first half with only two points. Going into the locker room frustrated, he came out determined to finish off the Celtics after a poor first half.
In the second half, the Celtics had no answer for him in the paint. It didn’t matter who coach Brad Stevens tried to throw at the veteran forward because they were no match for the four-time NBA champion. Duncan was determined to get the win and established himself as the go-to guy for the Spurs in order to finish off the Celtics. Any time San Antonio needed a big shot after Boston tried to cut the gap, Duncan answered with either a clutch jumper or big-time move in the post to get a much-needed basket.
While Duncan’s performance in the second half propelled his team to the win, he needed some help in order for the game to not slip away in the first half. Diaw and Patty Mills stepped up big time to provide some offense while some key players sat out. Diaw scored 18 points and Mills added 16 points of his own to give the team a much-needed boost in order to get the win.
Without their performances, the Spurs probably wouldn’t have come out victorious on Boston’s home floor, despite Duncan’s monster game.