Today we are looking at Tim Duncan’s five best games including the playoffs. As always, I found my information on basketball-reference.com. They have this nifty stat called Game Score that was created by John Hollinger to give each performance a rating. While not a perfect stat, it is a good starting point, and I used it to rank each game from all of Duncan’s seasons in descending order, thus allowing me to find his more successful games easily. After that I used an obscenely advanced statistic called my personal opinion to rate the top five.
Don’t like my choices? Awesome. Give me your top five.
5. Spurs v. Suns 3/4/2003 – Poor, poor Phoenix. They just could not get past the Spurs this past decade. Duncan and the Spurs were slapping them around even before Steve Nash arrived. This season the Spurs knocked the Suns out of the playoffs in the first round in six games. I guess some things are just inevitable.
This game came during the regular season, and the Spurs actually lost the game 104-97, but that does not concern me. Duncan owned the Suns in this game just like he did throughout his career (hint, they will show up later in this ranking). Duncan finished with 35 points on 14-of-18, shooting, 21 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 4 blocks and only 2 turnovers. Talk about total domination. He showed his ability from all areas of the court. Even though the Spurs won a title this year, it was a bit of a “rebuilding” year with a second year starting point guard, rookie swingman coming off the bench and Stephen Jackson starting. Duncan was called upon to carry more of the workload than ever before and he responded with games like this one.
4. Spurs v. Mavericks 12/26/2001 – Duncan will never be known as one of the all-time great scorers. He rarely tops 40 points and never came close to leading the league in scoring. I do not doubt that he could have if that was his goal, his low post skills were impossible to match in his prime, but scoring 30 points a night does not fit his nor the Spurs characters.
However, for one night against the Dallas Mavericks, Duncan could not miss. He finished with 53 points on 19-of-28 shooting and hit all 15 of his free throws. He only had 11 rebounds and four assists, not to mention six turnovers and five fouls, but the inclusion of this game is about his ability score. People overlook this aspect of Tim Duncan because he is not flashy. His signature move is a bank shot, which is about as vanilla as it gets. To underestimate Duncan’s ability to put the ball in the basket, however, is a grave mistake.
3. Spurs v. Nets Game 1 NBA Finals 6/4/2003 – I might be a little bias about this game; I was there. As soon as the Spurs made the NBA Finals, I convinced my family that we had to be there for Game 1, and there we were in the nose bleed seats to watch the Spurs win Game 1 against the New Jersey Nets. Therefore this game has a special place in my heart.
Even without that personal note this was a dominant game from Duncan. He poured in 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting, grabbed 20 boards, dished 6 assists and swatted 7 blocks all with one turnover. This was a complete game from the MVP. He did everything on the court. I remember the Nets hit the first couple shots and the crowd was a little stunned. It didn’t matter, though, because Duncan soon took over and guaranteed that the Spurs would win.
2. Spurs v. Suns Game 1 First Round 4/19/2008 – Like some of the other games on this list, this one has sentimental value for me and probably many other Spurs fans. This was Game 1 of the 2008 Playoff series with the Phoenix Suns, also known as the game where Tim Duncan’s three turned the knife a little harder into the Suns hearts. After the game my roommate, an avowed NBA hater, turned to me and declared it one of the best basketball games he had ever seen. Duncan was a huge part of that.
Of course Duncan’s numbers were great as well. Yes, they came in double overtime but that should not diminish how big of a game this was. Duncan finished with 40 points on 16-of-24 shooting, 1-of-1 on threes, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. People were beginning to say that Duncan was old and washed up, but his performance proved this critics wrong.
1. Spurs v. Nets Game 6 NBA Finals 6/15/2003 – This actually had the lowest Game Score of all the top five at 25.9, which goes to show you that you cannot base everything off statistics. When I consider the circumstances – game 6, the deciding game, of the NBA Finals – it changes how I view this game.
It was not Duncan’s highest scoring game but I contend that it was his most well rounded. He finished with 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and 8 blocks. He also set the record for most blocks in a NBA Finals. Talk about performing in the clutch. This showcased Duncan at his absolute peak. He could score in the post with a myriad of moves and control the boards. He also improved his passing significantly and was adept at moving the ball out of double teams. Then there was his dominance on the defensive end. Add his triple double (nearly quadruple double) to the importance of the game and you have the greatest Duncan performance ever.