Reflecting on Tim Duncan’s NBA Finals Performances
By John Vasington
Dec 22, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21) reacts against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Duncan has had an illustrious career. He has consistently won at the highest level, winning five of his six NBA Finals appearances.
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With the fans and the rest of the NBA still trying to soak in the news of his retirement, we can’t overlook some of the greatest moments in his career.
Duncan helped bring five championships to the city of San Antonio and emerged as a legend in his own right. We all have seen the many accolades in which he accomplished through his career, and though that is always great to bring up, but what Duncan has done during San Antonio’s run in the Finals only puts more topping on a wonderful career.
We recently looked at some of the memorable games during the Duncan era, we now want to take you back at all of the great teams that Duncan has had the pleasure of facing, and usually defeating, in the NBA Finals.
Next: 1999 NBA Finals: Spurs verse Knicks
1999 NBA Finals: Spurs defeat the Knicks 4-1
New York’s Starters:
PG: Charlie Ward
SG: Allan Houston
SF: Latrell Sprewell
PF: Larry Johnson
C: Patrick Ewing
Duncan’s Series Stat Line: Age: 22, MPG: 45.8, PPG: 27.4, RPG: 14.0, APG: 2.4, SPG: 1.0, BPG: 2.2, FG%: .537, FT%: .795
In Duncan’s first ever NBA Finals he took home MVP honors, and rightfully so. Facing an intimidating Larry Johnson, Duncan was able to win the battle in the post. He consistently found his way to the rim and the Spurs were able to handle the Knicks with relative ease.
Knicks were pleased with simply making the finals, this was still an impressive victory for the Spurs. Duncan spearheaded the effort that brought home the first ever NBA Championship to San Antonio.
Next: 2003 NBA Finals: Spurs verse Nets
2003 NBA Finals: Spurs defeat the Nets 4-2
New Jersey’s Starters:
PG: Jason Kidd
SG: Kerry Kittles
SF: Richard Jefferson
PF: Kenyon Martin
C: Jason Collins
Duncan’s Series Stat Line: Age: 26, MPG: 43.8, PPG: 24.2, RPG: 17.0, APG: 5.3, SPG: 1.0, BPG: 5.3, FG%: .495, FT%: .685
The Nets essentially rolled through the Eastern Conference before their meeting with the Spurs. In order to make it to the finals, San Antonio already had to defeat the three-time defending champion Lakers. In the finals, Duncan took advantage of the fact that New Jersey’s strength was their backcourt. He was a monster on the glass and was virtually unstoppable in the paint.
Perhaps where Duncan had the largest impact was as a rim protector. His defensive prowess and ability to influence a lot of the Nets’ interior shots forced Kidd and Jefferson to settle for looks away from the rim. It was David Robinson’s retirement season, and thanks to Duncan, the Spurs were able to send the Admiral out the right way.
Next: 2005 NBA Finals: Spurs verse Pistons
2005 NBA Finals: Spurs defeat the Pistons 4-3
PG: Chauncey Billups
SG: Richard Hamilton
SF: Tayshaun Prince
PF: Rasheed Wallace
C: Ben Wallace
Duncan’s Series Stat Line: Age: 28, MPG: 40.7, PPG: 20.6, RPG: 14.1, APG: 2.1, SPG: 0.4, BPG: 2.1, FG%: .419, FT%: .667
This series was a grueling one for both sides as each team played a tough style of basketball. Considering that, it is particularly astounding that as a big man Duncan still played the second most minutes out of any player behind only Richard Hamilton. Duncan was certainly the primary focus of the Pistons’ stout defense, but he was still able to remain effective and score over 20 points per game, on average.
The Spurs were fortunate enough to have Game 7 played in San Antonio, and Duncan made sure they used that to their advantage. He solidified the interior, outscoring the Pistons’ starting big men and single-handedly grabbed only one fewer rebound than the pair of Wallaces. He was the game’s leading scorer with 25 points in 42 minutes played. The 2005 Pistons were a great team coming off of a NBA Championship, but they weren’t good enough to defeat Duncan in his prime.
Next: 2007 NBA Finals: Spurs verse Cavaliers
2007 NBA Finals: Spurs defeat the Cavaliers 4-0
PG: Larry Hughes
SG: Sasha Pavlovic
SF: LeBron James
PF: Drew Gooden
C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Duncan’s Series Stat Line: Age: 30, MPG: 37.3, PPG: 18.3, RPG: 11.5, APG: 3.8, SPG: 1.3, BPG: 2.3, FG%: .446, FT%: .625
This Cavaliers’ team was definitely the worst team Duncan faced in the NBA Finals. Frankly, it is a miracle and huge testament to LeBron’s greatness that the team even made it as far as it did. However, even the 22 year old superhuman was no match for Duncan and the Spurs.
San Antonio took care of Cleveland in four straight games. Tony Parker took on the role of go-to scorer in this series, but Duncan still found a way to contribute in big ways. Gooden and Ilgauskas were no match for the Spurs’ frontcourt and the Cavaliers’ perimeter defense did a poor job of preventing penetration so this led to good looks in the paint for San Antonio. Duncan also led the team in assists, attracting a lot of attention from the Cleveland defense while in the post that he quickly took advantage of.
Next: 2013 NBA Finals: Spurs verse Heat
2013 NBA Finals: Heat defeat the Spurs 4-3
PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Udonis Haslem
C: Chris Bosh
Duncan’s Series Stat Line: Age: 36, MPG: 36.3, PPG: 18.9, RPG: 12.1, APG: 1.4, SPG: 0.9, BPG: 1.4, FG%: .490, FT%: .821
The 2013 NBA Finals was the one that got away. Save for a Ray Allen three pointer in Game 6 and the Spurs would have a sixth championship to add to their collection. Had the Spurs taken the series in six games, Duncan would have undeniably been named the finals MVP. Even at 36 years old, he was able to play 36.3 minutes per game and average a double-double. That said, Ray Allen did make the shot and the rest is history. The Spurs were defeated by a great team, and it would be Duncan’s only loss in a NBA Finals series.
Next: 2014 NBA Finals: Spurs verse Heat
2014 NBA Finals: Spurs defeat the Heat 4-1
PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Shane Battier
C: Chris Bosh
Duncan’s Series Stat Line: Age: 37, MPG: 33.1, PPG: 15.4, RPG: 10.0, APG: 2.0, SPG: 0.4, BPG: 0.8, FG%: .569, FT%: .679
It did not take long for the Spurs to erase the sour taste in their mouths following their 2013 NBA Finals defeat. They came back with a vengeance and got their revenge on the Heat largely thanks to Kawhi Leonard’s coming out party. Duncan also made the younger Chris Bosh look like the 37 year old, holding him to only 5.2 rebounds per game while grabbing 10 per game himself. He allowed Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker to dictate the flow of the games and filled in his role of tertiary scorer very well.
Never allowing the Heat to be in a position where a Ray Allen three pointer could save them, the Spurs handled the Heat with ease. It was a spectacular performance for a team that many had speculated was no longer as good with their aging veterans. Duncan was able to find consolation from the prior season’s disappointing finish in a fifth ring and he officially etched his name into the ranks of the all-time greats even with all of his critics who may not have already had him there.
Next: Duncan's Remarkable Career
When you consider the time frame from Tim Duncan’s first NBA finals to his last is 15 years, then that fact begins to put into context just how remarkable his career was. Not many players can have that sustained level of success for the duration of their career, just ask Kobe.
Being crowned as a champion over the likes of LeBron James, Patrick Ewing, Dwyane Wade, Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd to name just a few has to go down as one of the most profound accomplishments in Duncan’s career.
There is no question Duncan will be remembered as one of the all-time greats, and after taking a look at his NBA Finals performances and who he defeated, it is easy to see why.