Duncan doesn't get ink, but does the job
The Quiet Storm
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 11 -- It's hard to imagine 24 points and 17 rebounds coming quietly. But after Game 1, it seemed as if Tim Duncan's performance went unnoticed.
Duncan helped turn the Spurs' 17-4 first quarter deficit into a meager two-point halftime hole. While Manu Ginobili, the fourth quarter hero, was limited to 1-of-6 shooting, Duncan posted 13 points and 13 rebounds before intermission. But Ginobili finished fast and made noise. Duncan was rock steady and did not.
Perhaps it's because Duncan didn't perform Ginobili's herky-jerky drives, throw down Amare Stoudemire-like dunks or hang in the air like Dwyane Wade. Or, perhaps it's because Duncan has been so good for so long that numbers like 24 and 17 are expected. But whatever the reason, the 6-10 power forward plays the game with fundamentals and not flash. He grabs rebounds, not headlines.
"I laugh when they talk about no superstars in this series," said Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown. "Most people if they vote for the best player in the league would say Duncan, so I don't know what I think that means to be a superstar."
Not that being called a superstar matters to Duncan. He's got a laid back temperament that lends itself to flying under the radar.
"No, he doesn't care about being the best player in the league," said Spurs forward Robert Horry. "He only cares about winning."
"He's exactly the same person that I laid on the sand with down in St. Croix when we drafted him," added Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "He hasn't changed a lick, very honestly. He's basically an introverted, quite humorous, highly intelligent, easy going guy, who has gotten over himself.
"He just likes playing ball and he goes home and does whatever he does. That's him."
Duncan may still be the same person he was on that sandy beach in the Virgin Islands, his native country, but Popovich acknowledged Duncan's changed as a teammate.
"Since David's (Robinson) retirement the last couple of years, he's become more vocal," he said. "When timeouts are called, he'll be walking to the bench, talking to one or two guys. Timmy is going to be the guy going to them and saying, 'Hey, we're doing this on the pick-and-roll, what are you guys doing?' That's where his leadership comes in."
Duncan agreed leadership wasn't something that came intuitively.
"I had to learn," Duncan said. "I wasn't asked to be a leader early on in my career. I was allowed to learn through time, and just in watching the guys around me and in front of me. So it's not something that came natural."
Given the uneasy task of containing the NBA's top player, the Pistons have their hands full in Game 2. In the series opener, "San Antonio made one adjustment early and it was a big one," wrote Oscar Robertson in his NBA.com blog. "Rasheed Wallace was doing a good job on Tim Duncan outside, so they broke Duncan into the pivot, and Ben Wallace couldn't stop him from behind.
"You need to be in front of Duncan to deny him the ball and someone has to help out if he gets the ball."
How will the Pistons defend Duncan in Game 2?
"It's tough to even try to front him," said Antonio McDyess. "We tried to front him and tried to push him as far down in the paint as possible but when you do that, he's so smart and they're smart about getting him the ball, they'll drive all the way baseline and get it to him. Next thing you know, you look up and he's shooting lay-ups.
"You pretty much have to mix it up on him. Push him off the block as much as possible and let him shoot jump shots."
The Pistons have a unique dilemma in deciding which defender to assign primarily on Duncan -- three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace or Rasheed Wallace, whom many claim guards Duncan better than anyone in the league.
"Both those guys are definitely capable defensive players," McDyess said. "Rasheed knows Tim a little more than Ben. When Rasheed starts off on him, I think that's good for us, because he knows his moves, played against him in college. Rasheed's so long, he can contend his shot a little better.
Keeping Rasheed Wallace on Duncan may be the key to containing him, even if the Spurs forward leaves the high post for the low blocks. Even Duncan acknowledges Wallace is difficult to match up with, saying "he uses his length, he uses his jumping ability and he can get away from your body and really affect shots."
"He understands what he's doing with it, so he allows himself the space and the ability to recover," Duncan said.
It'll be interesting to see if Wallace -- and the Pistons -- recover in Game 2.
-- Brad Friedman will cover the Spurs throughout The Finals.
NBA.com is part of Turner - SI Digital, part of the Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network. Advertise on NBA.com | Career Opportunities | Help