"Missing a layup to tie the game. Unable to stop Dwyane and LeBron. For me, Game 7's gonna always haunt me." -Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan is putting the San Antonio Spurs Game 7 loss on his shoulders. Tim Duncan is the only person putting the Game 7 loss on his shoulders. The greatest player who will ever wear a Spurs jersey finished a revitalized season as the Spurs' best player in a series where they were literally seconds away from an NBA Title. He finished Game 7 with 24 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and tried to drag the Spurs to the finish line when it was clear Tony Parker, most likely because of injury, wasn't at his best. This comes after he scored 30 points and pulled down 17 rebounds in that narrow Game 6 loss.
I refuse to focus on the layup Duncan missed in Game 7 or anything that happened at the end of Game 6. There will be a time to look back and wonder what could've been, but I think appreciating the good that did happen helps soften the blow of losing. The fact is, we just saw Duncan have his best two games of the playoffs, and possibly the season, when the Spurs needed him to most. Parker and Ginobili were inconsistent in Games 6 and 7 for various reasons, and the second most reliable Spur was Kawhi Leonard, a second year guy who, as Pop stated, should be a senior in college right now.
The last thing Duncan should do is blame himself for this one. This wasn't supposed to be his series to win. But when the title was in reach, he dug deep to try to grab it. Then, he did it again when he needed to be the guy because others couldn't be. That's what you want from your leader. All year long he was more than willing to take a back seat to others on offense, take less touches and be the coach on the floor. But when it was needed, he was still able to carry the extra load for a championship caliber team.
That's what separates Duncan from his contemporaries. Kobe Bryant is still able to rise to the occasion, but can you imagine him taking a back seat to anyone for 90 percent of the season? Like Duncan, Kevin Garnett has taken a lesser role in Boston's offense over the last couple of years, focusing on defense and being a team leader. Unlike Duncan, Garnett hasn't shown an ability to carry the extra offensive burden for extended periods of time when called upon. Even Steve Nash struggled to with taking a lesser role this season, though injuries and the general chaos that was Los Angeles this year contributed to that.
The good news is this isn't the last we've seen of Timothy Theodore Duncan. He'll be back at least for next year. He said as much in the post game press conference. Chances are he'll take some time off from basketball, hang out with his kids, hang out at his auto shop. Then he'll get back to his training, finding a way to sustain and even improve on his brilliance. Hopefully he uses the end of this season as motivation for it not happening again next season. Despite the loss, I'll look on the end of Duncan's season fondly, because he again showed us what greatness is and he again showed us what being a leader is.
Photo: Sports Illustrated