It took all of five minutes of gametime before every Spurs fan’s worst nightmare came true: An injury to perennial all-star Tim Duncan, the cornerstone of the Spurs’ squad.
Silence reigned a moment as Tim Duncan collapsed to the ground, grabbing at his ankle as he braces against the pain. Moments later, assisted by Steve Novak and the team’s trainers, he was led off the court and into the lockerroom. At that point, all fans could do was wait and hope for good news.
By halftime, they had their reason to celebrate. The initial X-Rays had come back negative, and Tim Duncan seemed to have, at worst, an ankle sprain that would keep him out for two weeks.
In the meanttime, the Spurs never skipped a beat, playing what most often resembled a pickup game at the local YMCA as they exchanged points with the Golden State Warriors while maintaining a lead that shrank but never seemed genuinely threatened. While the usual suspects of Ginobili and Parker combined for 45 points between them, the up and coming Steve Novak proved he was a perfect fit into the elite cadre of three point shooters this team has accumulated for their latest campaign.
Novak, who must eventually earn a nickname better than The Accountant (some have bandied about Novocaine Novak as a replacement), scored 13 points including 3 of 4 shooting from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, with Tim Duncan out and Dejuan Blair still resting a wrist sprain, Tiago Splitter was once again summoned to fill the shoes of man in the middle. With timely defense and rotations, Splitter played great team defense while putting in 10 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, including four off the offensive glass.
There was little the Golden State Warriors could do to overcome the Spurs. Every time the Warriors took advantage of a sluggish Spurs squad, the team from San Antonio would snap back into the game and apply pressure, driving their lead back up. Though the Warriors have a number of scorers, only Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh shot with any reasonable efficiency from among the starting five. Meanwhile, their entire lack of a defense meant the Spurs never felt pressure from someone beside coach Greg Popovich.
Still, at the back of everyone’s mind was the Tim Duncan injury. Though guesses are that two weeks may be the maximum time Tim Duncan is out, there are a number of games in that stretch of time that will be difficult matchups for the Spurs. Over the course of that time span, they play Denver, Portland, Memphis, Boston, Houston and Phoenix.
Of those, Denver, Portland, Memphis and Boston are legit threats to the Spurs, with all due respect to the struggling Houston and lackluster Phoenix. In a worst case scenario in which the Spurs dropped all their games over two weeks with Duncan out, and if the Lakers kept winning at the current rate, it would put the teams into a tie for first.
Spurs fans have been blessed with a lack of injury through most of the year and can only hope Tim Duncan’s return is sooner than later, because the competition in the West and East is deep this year, and the longer a team can hold onto home court the better off they’ll be once they’re deep in the playoffs.
The Spurs next play Denver on Wednesday at 9:30 P.M. CST locally on KENS5, and nationally on ESPN. Follow along with our gametime updates on scores and stats on Twitter @spursexaminer and check back here for our continuing coverage.