SAN ANTONIO(AP) – Given his passion for wine, it’s no surprise that Gregg Popovich has such a deep appreciation for the graceful way Tim Duncan is aging.
Duncan will turn 39 shortly after Friday night’s Game 3 against the Los Angeles Clippers, but the oldest player in these playoffs still looks capable of carrying the load for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA’s lone series that’s even after two games.READ MORE: Flight From New York's JFK To John Wayne Airport Diverts To Denver After Flight Attendant Attacked By Passenger
With Tony Parker ineffective for a second straight contest Wednesday before leaving with a right Achilles injury, Duncan turned in a vintage performance in a 111-107 overtime win. Neutralized for much of the opener by DeAndre Jordan, the two-time MVP had 28 points and 11 rebounds while playing the final eight minutes with five fouls.
“He was spectacular,” said Popovich, who spends much of his offseasons in Oregon and is an investor in a winery there. “He continues to amaze me with the things that he is able to do. He knows he had to stay on the court and he figured out a way to do it. He continued to be aggressive, which is pretty amazing.”
While Duncan’s effort helped the Spurs avoid their first 0-2 hole under the three-time coach of the year, Parker’s injury could eventually lead to San Antonio’s summer starting sooner than expected. He’s probable Friday but could be hampered throughout the series.
“(I’m) very concerned,” Duncan said. “I hope he’s able to play and play well for us. We need him for that. He’s a big part of what we do, obviously. So him not at 100 percent hurts us.”
Patty Mills made sure Parker’s absence wouldn’t haunt the Spurs in the short term Wednesday, hitting the tying free throws with eight seconds left before scoring eight of his 18 points in overtime after Manu Ginobili had fouled out.
“They are battle-tested,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. “They lose Parker, Mills steps in. Manu is out, (Danny) Green steps in. That is what they do. You have to tip your hat to them.”READ MORE: Clippers Lose to Cavaliers 92-79
Should the Spurs have a lead in the fourth quarter of Game 3, they might handle their late-game strategy a bit differently. Popovich chose to start fouling Jordan while up five with 4:50 left Wednesday. Jordan made just 4 of 10 – right on his season average – but the Clippers got a pair of offensive rebounds off his misses and San Antonio seemed out of sync on the other end, scoring just two points over a five-minute stretch.
“It’s just kind of situational,” Duncan said. “It really didn’t work for us this time, kind of got them back in the game and we couldn’t score through that stretch and he made some free throws, but we’re going to play the percentages when we can. We’re going to see how the game is feeling and Pop is going to make the call.”
While Jordan finished third in defensive player of the year voting announced Thursday, the winner has been bothering the Clippers on both ends of the floor. Kawhi Leonard had 23 points in Game 2, his third with at least that many in five against Los Angeles this season.
Blake Griffin continues to be a problem for San Antonio after posting 29 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists Wednesday. Perhaps the Spurs will consider giving Leonard, who has only been the closest defender on three of Griffin’s 45 field-goal attempts, some more consistent chances to guard him despite the size mismatch.
Griffin has averaged 26.2 points in his last five against San Antonio, yet his focus after Game 2 was on his three turnovers down the stretch.
“You know, that game is pretty much 100 percent on me,” Griffin said. “… I’ve just got to take care of the ball.MORE NEWS: Beverly Hills Police Department Accused Of Racial Profiling
“We’ve got to change some things around. But it’s about the spirit we played with, and I expect us to come out with the right spirit on Friday night.”