Respect is clearly due Duncan, and a fair dose of sympathy, too, even here in South Florida.
He got no help from three-point specialist Danny Green once the series shifted back to Miami for the final two games. Duncan had to heft all of the headlines for the rest of San Antonio’s Big Three, too. Manu Ginobili was a turnover machine the last few games and Tony Parker, on the bench at the end of a 10-point performance in Game 7, seemed to run out of gas.
Maybe that’s why Duncan came up a little short on that last, best opportunity to steal the show from Miami’s back-to-back champions. He was pushing every hot button all game long, trying to spur the Spurs against a team that won 27 straight during the regular season and eventually lived up to that lofty reputation.
“I was just praying that he missed it, to be honest with you,” Battier said. “I don’t think I affected the shot that much. I was just trying to make him shoot over the top, and that’s a shot Tim Duncan usually makes eight out of 10 times.”
San Antonio fans won’t jump on Duncan for failing the way South Florida would slam LeBron in the same situation. Duncan has stood the test of time, ranking sixth all-time in playoff scoring (he passed Jerry West on Thursday night) and third in playoff rebounds (only Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain had more).
None of that mattered to him, however, as Duncan headed silently for the team bus, his polo shirt untucked, his head down, a loser for the first time in the NBA Finals after a truly grand total of four San Antonio trophy ceremonies going all the way back to 1999.
He knows that it truly is LeBron’s league now, just as Duncan predicted six years ago when the Spurs swept LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers in the championship series.