Thursday, Tim Duncan turned 37 years old. That’s about the age most American men are settling into the khakis and the sensible sedan.
Friday, Duncan dominated an NBA playoff game, a game that included Dwight Howard, who literally answers to “Superman.” A game that also included Pau Gasol, who is perhaps the best player in the history of a country (Spain), and a four-time NBA All-Star.
“I feel good,” he said.
When does it end? Not yet.
At the end of the third quarter, Duncan was 11-for-14 from the field. He had 22 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes. The Spurs led by 22 in a game they won 120-89.
This is not to take anything away from Howard, who is at this point the only thing between the Lakers and utter humiliation. He had another nice game Friday, scoring 25 points to go with 12 rebounds. But once again he did not really outplay Duncan, who is 10 years older and is still finishing one-handed alley-oops but barely creating daylight between his shoes and the floor when he does it.
So the San Antonio Spurs are up 3-0 in their first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs have not yet been challenged in the series, and it doesn’t look like they will. The Lakers are dried up.
This is what the Spurs earned with the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The banged-up Spurs lost seven of their last 10 games, fell to No. 2 and received the following spoils: Kobe Bryant’s 30-something tendons, Steve Nash’s 30-something hips and some dude named Andrew Goudelock (who did score 20 points).
The alternative would have been the No. 2 seed and a series against a younger faster better Houston team, a series that might actually have revealed something about the Spurs.
As it is we still don’t really know whether the Spurs are actually vulnerable to anything or whether that was all just the wishful musings of a viewing public bored of watching the Spurs be excellent. Presumably, they will have trouble in any series in which Duncan and Manu Ginobili have to play a bunch of minutes. Presumably, they could be worn slick by a young and fast team. Presumably, Duncan can be guarded without double teams these days and presumably that should be a big problem.
But we’re still just presuming. Like we have been all season.
The Lakers weren’t good enough or healthy enough to make the Spurs answer for any of that. And you’ll recall that neither of their two regular-season matchups with the Miami Heat meant anything either. San Antonio rested its stars in Miami and Miami rested its stars in San Antonio. So there’s nothing to see there, either.
Yes, the Spurs’ regular-season win total (58) tells you quite a bit about all that, but for a roster that is supposed to be on its last legs, the Spurs have not had to use them much to get where they are. It was Game 3, in Los Angeles in front of Jack Nicholson, and Duncan spent most of the fourth quarter resting on the bench and making Tim Duncan faces.
He played 31 minutes and scored 26 points on 16 shots. Tony Parker had 20, a few other guys threw in a few and that was all the Spurs needed.
This series, of course, is unofficially over, and the Spurs won it the same way they won 58 games this season. They did it with Duncan defying his age, with Parker quietly dominating the backcourt and with the 30-somethings playing just long enough to win and just short enough to make you wonder if they can keep it up.