Given his passion for wine, it’s no surprise that Gregg Popovich has such a deep appreciation for the graceful way Tim Duncan is aging.
Duncan will turn 39 shortly after Friday night’s Game 3 against the Los Angeles Clippers, but the oldest player in these playoffs still looks capable of carrying the load for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA’s lone series that’s even after two games.
With Tony Parker ineffective for a second straight contest Wednesday before leaving with a right Achilles injury, Duncan turned in a vintage performance in a 111-107 overtime win. Neutralized for much of the opener by DeAndre Jordan, the two-time MVP had 28 points and 11 rebounds while playing the final eight minutes with five fouls.
“He was spectacular,” said Popovich, who spends much of his offseasons in Oregon and is an investor in a winery there. “He continues to amaze me with the things that he is able to do. He knows he had to stay on the court and he figured out a way to do it. He continued to be aggressive, which is pretty amazing.”
While Duncan’s effort helped the Spurs avoid their first 0-2 hole under the three-time coach of the year, Parker’s injury could eventually lead to San Antonio’s summer starting sooner than expected. He’s probable Friday but could be hampered throughout the series.
“(I’m) very concerned,” Duncan said. “I hope he’s able to play and play well for us. We need him for that. He’s a big part of what we do, obviously. So him not at 100 percent hurts us.”
Patty Mills made sure Parker’s absence wouldn’t haunt the Spurs in the short term Wednesday, hitting the tying free throws with eight seconds left before scoring eight of his 18 points in overtime after Manu Ginobili had fouled out.
“They are battle-tested,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. “They lose Parker, Mills steps in. Manu is out, (Danny) Green steps in. That is what they do. You have to tip your hat to them.”