The game was an exciting one, with neither team pulling too far out of their opponent's reach. A late first-half run gave the New Orleans Hornets an early lead, but a strong start to the third quarter gave the Spurs the push they needed to overcome the younger, less experienced Hornets squad.
It was a matchup written for the storybooks. Two teams facing off, and depending on how you look at it, they appear to be either polar opposites or distorted clones.
On one side is the Spurs. A veteran team that has held its own for the past few seasons, maintaining its contender complexion, despite the inevitable aging process.
On the other side is the Hornets. A team that was desperately saved from a decade of embarrassment by a set of ping-pong balls, which ultimately brought them the first pick in the draft, and by extension, the highly coveted Anthony Davis.
But the major differences don't extend much farther than the apparent age distinction.
Both teams played a style of basketball revolved around their big men. For the Spurs, it was Tim Duncan, one of the greatest the league has ever witnessed. His New Orleans counterpart, Anthony Davis, a rookie with an incredible future.
The inevitable comparisons between the two were made before the matchup even occurred, but as the game progressed, the similarities became more and more apparent.
However, it wasn't until the closing minutes that the striking correspondences became obvious. Both commanded the middle as if it was their job—which, in fact, it is. On defense, they guarded the key, and on offense, their prowess extended from mid-range to the paint.
In the end, Tim Duncan bested his younger parallel, as the Spurs proved victorious. And he did so while making a statement.
The use of the word "old" when describing Duncan has become a bit of a cliché these past few years, though it isn't entirely wrong. Duncan, at 36, is no longer in the prime of his career, and has likely signed on for his final few seasons.
But the problem with calling the future Hall of Famer "old" is that many take it to mean that he is dilapidated, drained, downgraded; a mere shadow of his former self.
And while the fact that his best years are behind him is indisputable, Duncan proved tonight that he is in no way run down.
His 24 points and 11 rebounds against a younger, but competitive, opponent proved to the other teams that he is still one of the best big men in the league.
His declaration of his continued dominance, however, extends far past his individual career. The Spurs announced that they are anything but finished. Tony Parker displayed his talent with 23 points, including the go-ahead three that ultimately decided the game.
Kawhi Leonard—though not criticized for his age—also brought concerns after a shaky preseason indicated a potential sophomore slump. However, any fear about the young man's ability to shoot or dominate the floor was quashed, after Leonard posted 19 points, shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.
He added five steals and seven rebounds to supplement his scoring totals, with the apex of his dominance coming from an early second-half comeback led by the praised sophomore himself.
Like the team itself, the victory's significance can only be found by delving past the numbers on the scoreboard.
Though it was only a marginal win, the Spurs let the city of San Antonio know everything that they needed to. Duncan and Parker are ready for another season of dominance, as is the up-and-coming Leonard. The bench struggled, but it will undoubtedly improve once their star shooting guard, Manu Ginobili, returns from injury.
As for now, the Spurs will enter their home-opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a tally in the win column—but more importantly, a message to the rest of the Association: We're back.
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