On his own, Duncan was magnificent against the Nuggets. Even if his MVP-caliber evening was wasted, he further solidified his status as an ageless wonder.
For the game, Duncan finished with 31 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and two steals. He also made nine of 10 free throws.
Duncan is the third player over 30 to post at least 30 points, 18 rebounds, six assists and five blocks since 1986. Shaquille O'Neal and Robert Parish were the only other two.
Rare company for one of the all-time greats.
Even still, the Spurs dropped their fourth game in five outings. This is quite a shame, as Duncan is doing this at the tender age of 36.
Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld.com said it best.
Tim Duncan had 31 points, 18 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 blocks, 2 steals against the Nuggets tonight. How is Duncan doing this at 36 years old?— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) December 19, 2012
Let this be a lesson for the players of today and future generations—when you polish your fundamentals, longevity is an understatement.
For proof, check the fact that Duncan became the 26th player in NBA history to join the 23,000 career point club with his performance.
Congratulations to Tim Duncan on becoming the 26th player in NBA history with 23,000 career points!— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 19, 2012
Duncan hit 23,000 at the 9:15 mark in the third quarter.
The important fact about tonight's contest is that the Spurs did lose for the fourth time in five games. They also played their ninth game in 13 days, so the fatigue could certainly have contributed to the loss.
But how about another theory?
The Atlanta Hawks employed a controversial strategy against the Orlando Magic during the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Rather than collapse the defense on Dwight Howard and force him to kick it out, the Hawks did the opposite.
They let Howard go to work on the interior and held the perimeter scorers in check. In turn, they won the series 4-2.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports speculated that this is the strategy Denver took against San Antonio.
Maybe it really is "Let Duncan do whatever, just cut off the perimeter."— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 19, 2012
Whether this is true or not, one thing is perfectly clear: The San Antonio Spurs squandered a legendary performance by their 36-year-old leader.
Duncan deserves better than that.