Right up until just before tipoff of Sunday's matchup between the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets, Gregg Popovich wasn't sure if Tim Duncan would be able to take the floor. See, Duncan had spent all day fighting off a stomach bug that, according to Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News, the Spurs coach (who is not a doctor, but has played one named Dr. Beardgood on TV) "wasn't certain how to characterize" before the game.
"Timmy's just sick," he said before tipoff. "Flu, stomach poisoning. We're going to see if he's got any energy."
Late in the first quarter, Nuggets big man Chris Andersen found out that yep, Duncan did have some energy on Sunday. What he didn't have, unfortunately for "The Birdman," were great depth perception, a real strong handle on how much space was between the ball and Andersen's face, or any qualms about adding insult to injury. Observe, thanks to the Yahoo! Sports Minute:
Yipes. Credit Andersen for sticking with the play and contesting the shot, even after Duncan tried to put a "SPALDING" tattoo on his cheek to match the "FREE BIRD" tattoo on his throat. But the smack gave Duncan enough daylight to get past Birdman and attack the rim, where he finished the play with a flourish that sent both men crashing to the deck.
This could be the universe dishing out some slow-burning karmic retribution for Andersen slapping the ball off Rudy Fernandez's face a couple of years back. A more likely answer, though, given the fact that Duncan had four dunks against Denver after notching just 11 in his previous 34 games, is that the Spurs star has contracted some sort of dunk flu. And if that's not what happens, then excuse me, because I have a "Slam Dunk Ernest 2" spec script that I have to write and pitch. I'll see you after the jump.
As Paul J. Weber of The Associated Press noted, though, Duncan "also had his poor moments" in 24 illness-curtailed minutes, including two missed free throws that would have cut a late Nuggets lead to a single point in the game's final minute. While Duncan made up for the misses with a dunk on the Spurs' next possession, the squandered opportunity left the door open for Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson to put San Antonio away, which he did with extreme prejudice.
After draining the game-winner with 11.1 seconds remaining, Lawson would follow a missed Gary Neal three with a pair of free throws to ice the Nuggets' 99-94 win. The University of North Carolina product styled on the Spurs, popping for 22 points on 16 shots, dishing 11 assists while turning the ball over only once, and coming just one rebound shy of a triple-double. Andersen shook off the facial to make a solid contribution off the Denver bench, chipping in five points, eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 18 1/2 minutes of work.
Tony Parker led the way for San Antonio, pouring in 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting to go with seven assists. Duncan finished with 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting, nine rebounds and two blocks. Manu Ginobili, back on the floor after sitting out for two weeks nursing a strained oblique muscle, had eight points, five assists and four rebounds in just under 24 minutes in his return.
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