It's been a rough start to the season for Tim Duncan, who followed up a brilliant turn-back-the-clock 2012-13 season that ended in heartbreak by opening the 2013-14 campaign shooting less than 40 percent from the floor and putting up just 11 points and seven rebounds per game through the San Antonio Spurs' first 13 contests. Sure, the Spurs went 11-2 in those games and opened the season white-hot as a unit, but the 37-year-old surefire Hall-of-Famer was missing layups, front-rimming jumpers, looking a step behind on defensive rotations and generally showing signs of slowing down.
He's showing signs of speeding up now.
After combining for 39 points and 17 rebounds in a back-to-back against the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets over the weekend, Duncan turned in his third straight strong outing against former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer's Atlanta Hawks on Monday, and capped it with style. With the game tied at 100 following a huge 3-pointer by Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, San Antonio had the ball with 4.7 seconds left and a chance for the win. Given that opportunity, Gregg Popovich's team did a simple thing well:
Marco Belinelli inbounded to Manu Ginobili above the 3-point line, then sprinted to set a pindown screen on Hawks center Al Horford, freeing Duncan to cut to the right elbow for a simple pass from Ginobili. He caught it, put up a jumper in rhythm over the too-late contest of the switching and undersized DeMarre Carroll, and drained the 16-footer. Tic-tac-toe, nice and smooth, Spurs by two with 0.4 seconds left. An attempted Hawks answer by Paul Millsap came up empty, and San Antonio held on for a 102-100 win that improved their record to 15-3 overall and 8-1 inside the AT&T Center.
And if Duncan seemed a bit more demonstrative than normal after that shot, it might be because he made a little bit of history on Monday:
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) December 3, 2013
He did it on sterling 10 for 15 shooting, with a double-double in the second half alone (11 points and 12 rebounds in 19 minutes). He did it just shy of a year after his last 20-20 game and for the 22nd time in his illustrious career, and — perhaps most importantly if you're a fan of this year's Spurs — he's now shooting 63.4 percent from the floor over his last three games. Maybe, just maybe, the Big Fundamental's got a bit more in the tank than it looked like a week ago.
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