Tim Duncan has been the centerpiece of a San Antonio Spurs team that has won four NBA championships in nine seasons. As the Spurs continue their latest title defense, however, they’ll be without the nine-time All-Star.
The Spurs look to overcome Duncan’s absence and try to remain undefeated at home on Wednesday when they face the Southwest Division rival Dallas Mavericks.
Duncan bruised his right knee and sprained his right ankle in Sunday’s 100-79 win over Portland after getting entangled with Trail Blazers forward James Jones and falling near the Spurs’ basket with 7:40 left in the first half. He grabbed his knee and had to be helped off the floor by two teammates.
The Spurs (15-3) initially feared a serious knee injury, but MRI results came back negative Monday. Team spokesman Tom James said Duncan will miss this game against Dallas (12-6), but probably will return in the next few games.
“It’s not a big deal at all,” James said.
Duncan will surely be missed against the Mavericks in a matchup between teams that have combined to win each of the three Southwest titles since realignment before the 2004-05 season.
The Mavericks are hoping to win five straight against the Spurs for the first time since taking nine in a row in the series from Jan. 2, 1988-Feb. 20, 1989. Dallas is one of only three teams to defeat San Antonio this season, shooting 52.1 percent from the field in a 105-92 victory on Nov. 15.
Dallas held San Antonio to a season-low 40.0 percent shooting in that game.
“We definitely respect San Antonio, but I don’t think as much as (others) do,” Dallas’ Jerry Stackhouse said after that win.
The Spurs will look to avenge that loss by turning to Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to make up for Duncan’s absence. Ginobili had 25 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals in the first meeting with Dallas, and Parker anchored the San Antonio offense with 27 points on Sunday.
“There were still like eight minutes left in the second quarter (when Duncan left the game), so we just had to keep playing, keep playing and then whatever happens, happens,” said Parker, who also added eight assists.
That was the eighth win in nine games for the Spurs, who have a three-game lead over Dallas and New Orleans in the Southwest. It was also their 10th straight win in San Antonio to open the season - the best home start since the Spurs joined the NBA before the 1976-77 season.
The Mavericks have won three of four after a three-game skid. They beat Chicago 103-98 on Monday, but almost blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead. Chicago shot just 34.5 percent from the field in the game, but went 17-for-18 from the free-throw line in the final period as Dallas made a number of defensive mistakes.
“We’ve got to know what the coverages are, we’ve got to know when to switch, we’ve got to know who the shooters are, we’ve got to find the shooters,” Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “We can’t foul jump shooters. These are all mental errors that we’ve got to correct. We made some mistakes in November, but hopefully, we don’t make those same mistakes when the season ends and the playoffs come around.”
Josh Howard had his third double-double in six games with 27 points and 10 rebounds. He also recorded a season-high six assists, finding open teammates when he was double-teamed.
“It was good for me,” Howard said. “It gave me a whole lot more confidence, knowing they’re open and ready to knock down the shot.”
Howard led the Mavericks with 23 points in the win over San Antonio on Nov. 15. Nowitzki added 17 points, and is averaging 26.3 while shooting 51.9 percent from the field during Dallas’ win streak against the Spurs.