four-game sweep of the Grizzlies, Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs are headed back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007 and the fifth time in Duncan’s career. All four prior trips ended with the Spurs hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy; three (1999, 2003, 2005) ended with Duncan as Finals MVP.
He’s one of the great Finals performers in NBA history, averaging 22.7 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and three blocks per game in the championship round, and his 22 Finals games have included some amazing individual efforts. Let’s take a look at the 10 best NBA Finals performances from the first-ballot Hall of Famer.
1. June 4, 2003: Spurs vs. Nets, Game 1. After a six-game Western Conference finals win over the Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs faced Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets, representing the East for the second straight year. Duncan wasted no time letting New Jersey know they were in for a rough matchup, scoring 32 points, grabbing 20 rebounds, blocking seven shots, dishing six assists and snagging three steals in a 101-89 win. June 16, 1999: Spurs vs. Knicks, Game 1. Duncan's first trip to the finals came following the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, and he announced his presence with authority. The second-year pro torched the underdog New York Knicks' frontcourt — which, to be fair, featured Chris Dudley — for 33 points on 13 for 21 shooting, dominated the glass with 16 boards, and generally made Jeff Van Gundy (more) miserable in an 89-77 Spurs win. June 15, 2003: Spurs vs. Nets, Game 6. One year after being swept out of the Finals by the Lakers, the Nets fought back hard against the Spurs to win Games 2 and 4, but dropped a key Game 5 on their home court. With the series back in San Antonio, Duncan offered New Jersey no breathing room in Game 6, dropping a near-quadruple-double — 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, eight blocks — in an 88-77 win that notched the Spurs’ second title. June 13, 2003: Spurs vs. Nets, Game 5. Before capping things off with that marvelous Game 6, Duncan also outdueled Kidd (who had 29 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) in East Rutherford to the tune of 29 points, 17 rebounds, four blocks and four assists to pace a 93-83 road win that sent the Spurs back to Texas with two shots to win the O’Brien. (They’d only need one.) June 7, 2007: Spurs vs. Cavaliers, Game 1. Heading into the series, all the talk was about LeBron James, who'd just decimated the Pistons (remember that Game 5 explosion?) and had the Cavs looking strong. But "The King" struggled in Game 1, missing 12 of 16 shots, while Duncan (24 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks, two steals) and Tony Parker (27 points, seven assists) dominated to stake the Spurs to a 1-0 lead. June 18, 1999: Spurs vs. Knicks, Game 2. Coming off his huge Game 1, Duncan continued to terrorize the New York big men, with Dudley, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Larry Johnson all trying (and failing) to contain the Wake Forest product. Second verse, same as the first — 25 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and three assists for Duncan, an 80-67 win for the Spurs and a commanding 2-0 lead. June 11, 2003: Spurs vs. Nets, Game 4. The rarest item on the list — a Duncan Finals loss! He fought through foul trouble to post 23 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks, but an awful Spurs shooting night — Bruce Bowen, Tony Parker, Stephen Jackson, Manu Ginobili and Malik Rose went 7 for 49 — helped the Nets hold on for a 77-76 win. Oh, well. Can't win 'em all. (The Spurs win plenty, though — they’re 16-6 in the Finals with Duncan.) June 10, 2007: Spurs vs. Cavaliers, Game 2. "Donyell Marshall can't guard me." — Tim Duncan, probably. LeBron got his mojo back after a flat Game 1, but another monster outing from Duncan (23 points on 9 for 16 shooting, nine rebounds, eight assists and just one turnover in 36 minutes) and Parker (30 points on 13 for 20 shooting) was too much for the Cavs to overcome, as San Antonio scored a 103-92 win. June 23, 1999: Spurs vs. Knicks, Game 4. After a Game 3 win gave the Knicks some life, the trio of Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby (66 points on 55 shots) had their sights set on getting even in the best-of-seven series. Duncan (28 points, 18 rebounds, three assists and three blocks) had other plans; as a result, the Spurs won, 96-89, to come within one win of the first NBA title in franchise history. June 25, 1999: Spurs vs. Knicks, Game 5. They’d finish the job two days later, and while the game-winner was a baseline jumper by Avery Johnson, it was Duncan’s dominance — 31 points on 12 for 22 shooting, nine rebounds and two assists — that put the title within the Spurs’ grasp. After the game, Duncan received his first of three Finals MVP trophies; his quest for a fourth, and a fifth ring, begins June 6.