Same Ol' Tim Duncan Affords San Antonio Spurs Same Ol' Chance

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Same Ol' Tim Duncan Affords San Antonio Spurs Same Ol' Chance
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The dog had his day.

Woof, woof indeed.

Richard Jefferson erupted for 17 points in the first half and grabbed seven rebounds in the Spurs' 102-88 Game Two victory over the Mavericks.

Afterward, Rick Carlisle called San Antonio's hallmark offseason acquisition a "helluva player" in his post-game presser.

Peter Holt wasn't barking about his highest payroll ever Wednesday night. Mark Cuban's half-manufactured hatred rose a few notches.

Gregg Popovich had singled out players not named Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, or Tony Parker after Game One with his blunt statement heard 'round the country.

More rotation fixtures produced less canine-like performances in the second tilt.

Jefferson drove for a pair of reverse lay-ins, and his jumpshot followed. His best half of the season allowed Popovich to head to the locker room with a sigh of relief and all the momentum.

The coach, for once, had his "Big Four" and a synchronized team determined to attack the rim and defend like the championship rosters did.

Then, the second half, a lesson in survival, became someone else's story.

Tim Duncan's.

This was supposed to be the regular season and playoff in which his teammates could no longer expect him to win games with his back to the basket.

Yet, with the flustered but responsive Mavs pulling as close as five in the fourth quarter, the Spurs did just that.

If the role players put the ball in Ginobili's hands for most of March and asked him to save a season, they dumped the ball to Duncan on Wednesday night and watched him save a must-win postseason match.

And extricate the game he did.

Jason Terry drilled a left-corner three to trim the Spurs lead to five, 89-84.

Duncan responded with eight straight points to keep Dallas at bay.

He flipped in a tough shot to beat the buzzer with his extended left hand. He drained two consecutive driving jumpshots.

He willed in another one-hander to give the Spurs a 13-point lead with 3:37 left.

This same Duncan, consistent as the rain in Seattle, negated every matchup problem the Mavericks caused in 2006.

The Spurs set up a winner-take-all-affair at the AT&T Center, and he scored many of his 41 points in a furious second-half rally.

The Spurs had a chance then. They have the same one now.

Losing a tight Game One did not discourage the Mavericks in that classic affair. They responded in Game Two of that series the way the Spurs did on Wednesday.

Duncan's knees ache every day. In the final years of his career, there will be many nights when he cannot find the basket.

His shot appeared so lost in a 1-for-10 clunker in Orlando a month ago that even the Coast Guard would have declared the cause hopeless.

His consistency and numbers will change. What he did Wednesday won't.

Stoic as ever, Duncan found a way when the Spurs were headed for a series-ending fourth quarter blunder to help them hang on.

This is what he does in the playoffs. Give him minutes on this stage, and he personifies persistence in its finest form.

His clutch kick of four straight hoops should not overshadow his magnificent work on the glass. His 17 rebounds helped the Spurs win the offensive rebounding battle 23-9.

The Spurs owned the glass 51-42 and the paint 40-30.

The team can still improve its free throw percentage, its fourth-quarter execution, and its defensive rotations.

When San Antonio had completed its wire-to-wire win, the aftermath felt different from last year's Game Two, when a 105-84 decision would be the team's lone win of the series.

The Spurs know they must play a lot better as the series shifts to their arena. They won't let the Mavs stampede them in another lifeless Game Three showing.

Ginobili's presence guarantees that much.

The Argentine nailed a pair of home-run threes and tallied 23 points.

George Hill made his only two baskets in the fourth quarter.

Parker found the touch on several contested jumpers.

Duncan took it from there.

He usually does.

The first-half was about Jefferson living up to expectations in a must-win game.

The rest of the tale was all too familiar.

Duncan scored eight points in the first two quarters. He finished with 25, using his smarts and certitude to overpower Brendan Haywood.

Dirk Nowitzki's field goal percentage will fluctuate from game to game. He won't make 12 of 14 shots again. He also won't miss 15 attempts.

Popovich will maintain his assessment of his team's ability to guard Nowitzki. Good luck, guys.

The same can be said of Duncan, who reminded everyone of the other constant matchup problem that has made this rivalry both compelling and competitive.

Same ol' tough series. Same ol' Duncan. Same ol' chance for the Spurs.

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