A Visual Timeline of Tim Duncan's Quest for Ring No. 5
"Old" is one of many adjectives that NBA fans have associated with the San Antonio Spurs' veteran big man, and while the description may have suited him last year, the same cannot be said for the Duncan of 2013.
Sure, it may seem counter-intuitive, but the 37-year-old, 14-time All-Star spent the season dominating opponents and fighting Father Time in an unprecedented manner.
Averaging 17.8 points per game and 9.9 rebounds in the regular season, Duncan enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career.
However, while his individual achievements are incredible, the rejuvenated big man is still eyeing one more goal.
With the playoffs in full swing, Duncan's eyes are set on the one thing that has eluded him for so long—a fifth ring.
San Antonio is once again a title contender, and their chances at a winning another title remain very much alive. And now, after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, Duncan is inching closer and closer to that hardware, which would ultimately cap off a legendary season for the Spurs' most decorated star.
2007 NBA Championship
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However, since that time, the team has failed to reach the Finals, though they have remained a model for success, nonetheless.
In the year following their 2007 championship, the Spurs advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where they were sent packing after falling to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The team suffered a similar fate in 2012, when they fell apart in the Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In recent years, Duncan's window for a fifth title is slowly beginning to close—and the veteran's thumb remains ringless.
His decline had been much discussed over the past few years, though the team's ability to contend has yet to disappear.
With the 2013 postseason possibly being his final opportunity, Duncan will look to complete the goal that he has failed to do since 2007, and win an NBA championship.
Opening Night of 2012-13 Season
Having showed a steady decline in the two seasons prior, the expectations for Duncan were not extremely high.
Though people never doubted his continued ability to contribute, few could have prepared for the monstrous season that would soon come.
Duncan began the season on the right foot, scoring 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the team's opening-night win over the New Orleans Hornets.
The team's first points came from the aging power forward, and he continued to lead the way throughout the remainder of the season.
Though his opening-night performance may not have proved that Duncan was rejuvenated, it certainly was an indication of the comeback season that he would soon have.
Duncan Wins Western Conference Player of the Week
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His production in the first game may not have solidified the notion that Duncan was back to dominate. However, by the end of November, plenty of people knew that the 2012-13 season was going to be something special for the Spurs' future Hall of Famer.
In what was perhaps his greatest multi-game stretch of the season, Duncan averaged 22 points and 12.8 rebounds per game from November 19 to November 25. For his efforts, he was named the Western Conference Player of the Week.
He had last won the accolade in 2009.
By then, people had started to take note of Duncan's play, as it became evident that his age was not going to hold him back, yet again.
Duncan Explodes Against the Denver Nuggets
By December, it had become crystal clear that Duncan was much more than just a shadow of his former self. However, a single performance against the Denver Nuggets on December 18 proved to the final batch of doubters that the Spurs legend was back.
Though the team could not pull out a win, Duncan's individual performance spoke volumes about what the team would accomplish during the season.
Finishing the night with 31 points, 18 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 blocks, Duncan proved that he wasn't simply the team's defensive leader, but a primary offensive contributor as well.
Despite being old, he had officially left his mark as one of the top players of the season.
The Injury Bug Strikes Duncan
As with any great player, a single great season can be ruined by nagging injuries. This notion is especially true with veterans.
Following a 24-point, 17-rebound contest against the 76ers on Jan. 21, Duncan suffered an ankle injury that left many fans holding their breath.
The consequences were mild, with Duncan missing eight of his next nine games. His absence certainly wasn't short—but it could have been much, much worse.
The injury proved that he was not superhuman—and that an injury could very well taint the remainder of his season.
Though some wondered whether his performance would be affected following his return, he quickly proved them wrong. While his numbers may have declined immediately after coming back, he was able to return to his dominant ways by March.
Return to the All-Star Game
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When it came time to vote for the All-Star Game, Duncan was a no-brainer selection. In the midst of one of his best career campaigns, the only question was whether or not the veteran frontcourt star would be given the start.
He ultimately placed fourth, behind Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard, who were named the starters.
Duncan was instead selected as a reserve, and joined teammate Tony Parker and coach Gregg Popovich on the West's roster.
Though he may have deserved a starting job, Duncan's selection—after missing his first game since 2000 just a season before—served as public recognition for his incredible year.
Duncan Downs the Clippers
The second half of the season proved to be just as good as the first for Duncan.
Enjoying numerous throwback performances, Duncan led his squad to one of the league's top records—despite a late skid that forced them into the West's second seed.
Still, he shined on an individual level on a consistent basis.
Though his incredible performances were numerous, his showing against the Los Angeles Clippers was likely his best of the season.
Scoring a season-high 34 points, Duncan was an offensive juggernaut throughout—and the go-ahead three-point play in the closing seconds capped off his most impressive game of the season.
The Playoff Run
The Spurs finished the season with the second-best record in the Western Conference and drew the Los Angeles Lakers as their opponents in the opening round of the playoffs.
Even without Kobe Bryant in L.A., many still doubted the Spurs—who struggled in the final month of the regular season—and picked the Lakers.
However, Duncan and the Spurs soon proved that they were undoubtedly the better team. In four quick games, the Spurs ended the Lakers' season and moved on to the second round.
Duncan's opponents in the post—Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol—proved to be no match for the veteran star. Highlighted by his 26 points on 75 percent shooting in Game 3, Duncan showed that he still had plenty of juice left for the playoffs.
With the Golden State Warriors next on San Antonio's agenda, Duncan will have to once again treat the league to a handful of throwback performances, as he attempts to extend his playoff journey even more, and eventually lead his team to the franchise's fifth championship.