It was a performance for the ages by San Antonio Spurs star forward Tim Duncan, but unfortunately for him, late heroics from the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals will forever dampen what was a historic performance.
Duncan's line for the night was 30 points and 17 rebounds to go along with a plus-16 rating. It's absolutely baffling how a team's star player can rack up such a high plus-minus rating in a playoff loss.
But it's not the final stat line from the Big Fundamental that garners praise from the basketball world, it's how he led his team early on in what looked to be their shining moment.
The Spurs came out flat-footed in the first quarter, but it was Duncan who kept their heads well above water. You couldn't tell it by the scoreboard as San Antonio went into the locker room with a 50-44 lead, but the Spurs weren't getting much from their other two stars. Manu Ginobili was 0-of-2 in the game's first 30 minutes, while Parker shot 2-of-6.
Heck, even Danny Green missed a three-pointer in the opening frame.
But they didn't have to worry, because their all-time great power forward decided to show up early and often after cruising his way through much of the series' first five games.
And the incredible thing is that Duncan didn't even need to see his teammates' struggles to get him going. He was a perfect 6-of-6 in the first quarter, wasting no time in taking over the paint early on, as all of those makes were either in the paint or on the blocks.
His 25 points and eight rebounds to close out the first half was more legendary visually than it was statistically, and that's saying something.
Going 10-of-12 in the first half of a potential closeout Game 6 with a fifth ring on the line? Somehow, I feel as if using the word "legendary" is a smack in the face of that performance.
ESPN Stats and Information summed up his jaw-dropping first half with an interesting tidbit:
Duncan may not have had his same effect in the second half with just five points in the scoring column, but he protected the paint with a daunting presence and cleaned up the boards for San Antonio.
When the game reaches its boiling point like it did on Tuesday night, it often gets dominated by guard play. That kept Duncan from getting the ball on the paint in crunch time, as Gregg Popovich opted to trust Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili with their penetration.
But don't let that allow you to overlook what was a monumental performance from Duncan on Tuesday night.
The 37-year-old is already the greatest power forward of all time in my opinion, but what he was able to do in such a clutch Game 6 is beyond me and only assures more admiration for Duncan's career.
Who knows, perhaps we'd be referring to him as 2013 NBA Finals MVP if that Ray Allen three-pointer with just five seconds left in regulation hadn't gone down.
It's too bad for Duncan and the Spurs that one of the all-time great playoff performances will be remembered for this fourth-quarter block by LeBron James in what was a stunning comeback.
While his plan to put the final touches on a trophy-filled career with a fifth ring came up just short on Tuesday, you can bet that the Big Fundamental will be more ready than ever for Game 7.
After all, it could be Duncan's last true attempt at making history.
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