Any time Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs took on Kevin Garnett, you knew there were going to be some fireworks. Tim Duncan is widely regarded as the greatest power forward of all time, but Garnett isn’t too far behind on the list.
Duncan and Garnett faced off a total of 52 times between 1998 and 2016, meeting in the playoffs twice in their illustrious careers. When they faced off, they always seemed to bring the best out of each other, which resulted in these stats in games played head-to-head:
Tim Duncan: 19.3 PPG, 11.9 REB, 3.3 ASTS, 2.0 BLKS
Kevin Garnett: 19.8 PPG, 10.6 REB, 4.0 ASTS, 1.9 BLKS
As you can see, both guys were unstoppable when their teams met, which led to some classic on-court moments. Beyond basketball, the two didn’t have the friendliest of relationships, as one 2012 Yahoo article speculated.
With both legends set to be inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame, here’s a look at the top five moments between two of the best power forwards the game has ever seen.
5. San Antonio Spurs fall to Wolves despite monster game from Duncan
Heading into a January 2004 game against Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves, the San Antonio Spurs were boasting a 26-12 record. Minnesota was also no joke that season, however.
Riding a four-game winning streak, the Wolves took care of business at the SBC Center, winning 100-93 behind 22 points from Garnett and 24 from Latrell Sprewell.
While he didn’t get much help, Tim Duncan had one of the best games of his career against Garnett, scoring 36 points, pulling down 20 boards, and dishing out seven assists.
Duncan did everything he could possibly do to keep the game close, but Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker combined for just 26 points in the loss. Still, watching Duncan repeatedly score on post-ups and putbacks all game long was impressive.
The Spurs ended up tying the season series with the Wolves, who advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals before falling to the Lakers.
4. The Spurs take the win in the rivals’ first-ever meeting
Before his first meeting with Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan had just six NBA games under his belt. Although Duncan scored 15 or more points in four of his first six games, it was still David Robinson‘s team early in the season.
That held true when the Spurs visited the Timberwolves, as the Admiral dropped 36 points and 16 rebounds at the Target Center. Still, Duncan more than held his own against Garnett, who was coming off an All-Star season and on his way to another.
Duncan shot 9-of-13 against the Wolves, tallying 22 points and nine rebounds. Garnett, meanwhile, scored 14 points and snagged four boards.
The exciting ending to this game is what immortalizes this moment in time in the rivalry, as the teams exchanged game-winning shots that went down to the buzzer.
The San Antonio Spurs prevailed 93-92.
3. TD and KG share a highlight play in the 2000 All-Star Game
Duncan and Garnett didn’t always share the court as rivals. Both were selected to the NBA All-Star Game 15 times in their careers, tying them for fifth-most overall behind Julius Erving.
In the spirit of highlighting a light-hearted moment before we get to a tense one, here’s a look back at the 2000 All-Star Game. The starters for the game were Duncan, Garnett, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal.
Naturally, that five was on their way to a comfortable win over the East, but not before Garnett and Duncan combined for this show-stopping throwdown slam from Tim off a beautiful no-look pass.
The two even shared a rare nice moment that was captured by a photographer.
Duncan’s 24 points and 14 rebounds were enough to earn him a shared MVP of the game with Shaquille O’Neal, and the West won 137-126.
2. KG smacks TD, Spurs smack Wolves out of playoffs
Ok, back to the rivalry. It doesn’t get much more contentious than playoff basketball, and Kevin Garnett demonstrated that well in his first series against Duncan’s Spurs.
Garnett wasted no time adding fuel to the postseason fire, proclaiming that his Timberwolves were going to “shock the world” as an eighth seed facing a one seed.
In 1999, the first round was just five games long, so if there was any chance for an upset, that might’ve been it. Instead, the Spurs took a 2-1 lead into Minnesota with the hopes of clinching the series on the road.
Toward the end of the first half, Joe Smith and David Robinson got into a scuffle under the basket, which led to one of Garnett’s many unprofessional and uncalled-for moments.
The replay is even more revealing, as it shows KG square up to Robinson’s back, jawing at him when Duncan comes over to break things up. Then, Garnett jaws at Tim before smacking him on the back of the head for no reason.
Duncan and Robinson got the last laugh in the series-clincher, combining for 35 points and 19 rebounds in a 92-85 victory. Of course, the Alamo City’s first NBA title would soon follow.
1. Duncan has 4 words for dealing with KG
Given how irritating Garnett often was on the court, it’s only right that Duncan’s ability to ignore him comes in at number one. Famous other trash-talkers like Shaquille O’Neal and Draymond Green also tried their best to rattle The Big Fundamental, but he never budged an inch.
The same was true of Kevin Garnett, who admitted as much on All the Smoke with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.
“What really, really, really pissed me off was when the trash-talking wasn’t affecting him,” said Garnett.
“You’re spending all this energy trying to rile him up. You forget about your own game,” he continued. “That’s when I quit talking trash to Timmy, because he wouldn’t respond or give me the reaction I was needing.”
As Duncan himself revealed in a recent rare podcast appearance for Real Ones, that was exactly his strategy. “He wanted to get you outside yourself, and I guess I recognized that,” said Duncan.
“It also wasn’t part of my game. It frustrates people more when you just keep coming and coming and getting things done no matter what they do. It ends up affecting them more than it does you.”
Duncan’s strategy paid off perfectly to the tune of five NBA titles and countless accolades, with one significant distinction left in the form of a Hall of Fame induction this weekend.
Tim Duncan week continues here, with his top 5 moments versus the late, great Kobe Bryant.