The Oklahoma City Thunder took down the San Antonio Spurs in convincing fashion, closing out their second-round series with a 113-99 win in Game 6. But the win may have done more than just end the Spurs’ season, as it likely marked the end of Tim Duncan and the Spurs as we know them.
The defining moment came late in the fourth quarter, when the Spurs had cut the 28-point lead to 11 with just under four minutes to go.
Duncan was in the midst of his best game in the playoffs: He had scored 19 points after scoring just 17 in the first five games of the series combined. But when the Spurs needed him most, it just wasn’t there and it was hard to watch.
After missing a 14-foot jump shot badly just moments earlier, the Spurs had a chance to cut the lead to just nine points. On a pick-and-roll, Duncan had a clear path to the basket, but as he tried to go up for the dunk, he was blocked by Serge Ibaka and knocked to the floor.
The Thunder then scored on the ensuing fast break with a Kevin Durant dunk, and the game was essentially over.
For anybody who has appreciated the career of Duncan, it was a tough moment to watch. The legs weren’t there. The explosiveness wasn’t there. The ability to score when his team needed it wasn’t there.
Even worse was that it seemed like the moment also hit Duncan. Just after Durant scored, Duncan, never one to show emotion, stood motionless and then slumped his shoulders and head before turning and slowly walking off the court.
Was that the moment when Duncan realized it was over?
At this point, nobody knows if this was Duncan’s last game – maybe not even him. After the game, he was asked if this was it.
“I’ll get to that when I get out of here and figure life out,” he said.
As Buck Harvey of the Express-News notes, Duncan will have all summer to rehab and get healthy, and the Spurs will almost certainly want him back, as his $5.6 million salary next season is a bargain.
But even if Duncan does come back, it won’t be the same. With the Spurs firmly in the hands of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, Duncan would be reduced to a role player, likely one who comes off the bench and maybe even sparingly.
The Spurs are in good hands and will be fine – but the loss on Thursday likely marked the end of the Duncan era, even if he doesn’t retire.