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Is this the last we see of TD?
May 18, 1997 must seem like a lifetime away for Spurs faithful, particularly those holding their collective breath until Game 6 tips off tonight in Oklahoma City. It was that day, in another century, that the ping-pong balls aligned for the Spurs, granting them the right to draft Tim Duncan, the big man out of Wake Forest. Duncan arrived in the San Antonio with a passion for winning complemented by an island demeanor, ultimately exceeding all expectations for the Spurs.
Duncan now stands on the precipice of what could be his final game. At 40 years old, with two bum knees, much of that depends on his teammates. After dominating the start of the series against OKC, LaMarcus Aldridge looks about as shook as Danny Green did against the Thunder in 2012. Kawhi Leonard has also disappeared in key moments, proving that he is in fact human and not a basketball cyborg constructed in the basement of the Spurs’ practice facility.
“We all have to put pressure on ourselves,” Aldridge told reporters after Game 5, anticipating tonight’s contest. “Just got to go out there and play like it’s our lives on the line and go compete at a very high level and do anything we have to do to get the win.”
With Tony Parker throwing up brick after brick in the fourth quarter, Game 5 confirmed that the Spurs can no longer rely on their vaunted Big Three to produce at a high level on a consistent basis in these playoffs. Now more than ever, Aldridge, Leonard and Green must contribute in crunch time for San Antonio to succeed. The last time the Spurs triumphed in a Game 6 against the Thunder, Boris Diaw paced them with 26 points, so perhaps it’s time to call his number as well.
Whether Duncan’s career ends tonight, in June, or sometime much further down the line, his value to this franchise is immeasurable. As the Joshua to David Robinson’s Moses, Duncan led the Spurs into the NBA’s promised land, lifting an entire community out of its small-town doldrums. As such, he deserves a more fitting ending to a storied career, or at least a glimpse of Game 7 in San Antonio.