Has Tim Duncan become a defensive liability?

This is a nice collection of clips from Game 2 of the Spurs/Suns series showing Tim Duncan guarding the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

I don’t think the Suns are running the pick-and-roll so much because they want to attack Duncan. I think they run it because they’re really, really good at it. Nash is one of the best ball handlers and decision makers in the league, and Stoudemire is one of the best finishers in all of basketball. It makes sense that they’d run this over and over because everyone has trouble defending it, not just the Spurs.

That said, Duncan (34) is not quite the defender he once was, which is why I was so surprised when he made the All-Defensive Team over Andrew Bogut, who was terrific on that end of the floor this season.

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Bench keys Suns’ win over Spurs

Phoenix 110, San Antonio 102

When starters Amare Stoudemire (23 points), Jason Richardson (19), Steve Nash (19) and Grant Hill (18) combine for 79 points, it may seem odd to give props to the Suns bench, but without Channing Frye’s 15 points (5-of-6 from 3PT) and Jared Dudley’s all-around game, Phoenix would have been in trouble.

Tim Duncan posted 29-10 for the Spurs, but was having a tough time matching up with the Suns on the defensive end. (By the way, Andrew Bogut got screwed out of 2nd Team All-Defensive honors. I realize that Duncan plays a lot of center, but he’s listed as a forward. Anderson Varejao made the 2nd Team at forward. Are they really serious that Varejao had a better defensive year than Bogut, who had the second most combined blocks, steals and charges in the league? They should have listed Duncan as a forward and given Varejao’s spot to Bogut.) Duncan was forced to guard Frye out on the perimeter, so at one point he switched over to Hill for a couple of possessions and Hill just dribbled into his range and knocked down a pair of key jumpers.

With this win in Game 2, the Suns own all the momentum in the series. Their mission now is to win one game in San Antonio, while the Spurs desperately need to win both Game 3 and Game 4 if they hope to come back and win this series.

It’s funny — for years, I’d always root for the Suns in their playoff matchups with the Spurs, but now I find myself rooting for San Antonio. Maybe they’re a bit of an underdog, or maybe they’re the team that could seriously challenge the Lakers in the Conference Finals. Or maybe it’s a combination of the two.

Anyway, they’re in big trouble, so there’s a great chance we’re going to see a Lakers/Suns matchup in the next round.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

The Spurs own Texas

The Spurs said they were going to treat Game 6 at home as if it were a Game 7, and that’s the right mentality. You want to close the series out at home if you can, because winning a Game 7 on the road is no easy task.

San Antonio jumped out to a big lead early in the game, and were up 35-16 in the middle of the second quarter when Mavs rookie Roddy Beaubois entered the game. Over the course of the next 16 minutes, Beaubois would score 16 points and lead the Mavs on a 45-28 run that would bring Dallas to within two points with 2:43 to play in the third quarter. The Spurs simply didn’t have an answer for him on the defensive end.

With the Mavs trailing by seven, Beaubois started the fourth quarter on the bench, and didn’t re-enter the game until there was 2:44 remaining in the game. Rick Carlisle wanted to get Jason Terry going, and while he did hit a six-foot runner to cut the lead to two with six minutes to play, that was the only shot he made all night. Mavs fans are left wondering what would have happened had Carlisle brought Beaubois back earlier in the quarter.

From the Spurs perspective, check out this series of scores in the fourth quarter:

6:33 Tony Parker makes 18-foot jumper
5:50 Antonio McDyess makes 13-foot jumper
4:47 George Hill makes 10-foot two point shot
4:07 Antonio McDyess makes 17-foot jumper
3:18 George Hill makes 23-foot three point jumper
1:28 Tony Parker makes 20-foot jumper

Notice anything? For a team that usually leans on Manu Ginobili drives and Tim Duncan post ups, the Spurs scored on jump shots on six possessions in just over five minutes. During that stretch, Tim Duncan didn’t take a single shot, Ginobili missed three shots and Parker missed a 16-footer. Otherwise, they were all made jumpers by McDyess, Hill and Parker. (Ginobili and Duncan did combine for five assists during that stretch.)

After a 29-point performance that essentially won Game 4 for the Spurs, George Hill scored 21 points tonight on 12 shots. Ginobili finished with 26, Tim Duncan had 17 and Tony Parker chipped in with 10. Hill gives the Spurs another offensive weapon to go to in crunch time when the Spurs’ “Big 3” need a break or just aren’t getting it done. As Reggie Miller noted, Hill was a great scorer in high school and college, so he can “score with the best of them.”

I’ll write more about the Mavs tomorrow. As it stands, they just seem like they’ve been snakebitten since losing the 2006 Finals to Dwyane Wade and the Heat. I can’t imagine what is going through Mark Cuban’s mind right now after making several big acquisitions (Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood) over the past few years. He was expecting that this team would make a run to the Finals, but instead, they just lost Game 6 to their arch-rivals and are heading home in the first round. Ouch.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Line of the Night (1/12): Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan led the Spurs to a 105-85 win over the shorthanded Lakers, posting 25 points (on 12 of 19 shooting), 13 rebounds, four assists, four blocked shots and two steals. Kobe Bryant left the game in the second half with what was described as “severe back spasms.”

The NBA’s 10 Top Moments of the Decade

Nice work by Shaun Powell over at NBA.com

There are moments, and then there are Moments, the kind that tattoo themselves into your memory bank, making them hard to forget easily. The NBA had its share during the 2000s, certainly more that can be summed up in a few sentences.

Here’s a Top 10, confining the good and not-so-good moments to the on-court kind only that helped shape the decade.

10. Greg Oden out for the season, 2007 (and now, this one). When they drafted Greg Oden first overall in 2007, the Blazers had visions of another Bill Walton. Careful what you wish for. Oden quickly adopted Walton’s black cat and underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee. And then, just last week, he fractured his left patella. He doesn’t deserve this. Nobody does.

9. Cavaliers draft LeBron James, 2003. After a 17-win season, there wasn’t really much of a surprise what the Cavaliers would do with the first overall pick. Still, it was a major moment for the franchise, to be able to draft a local (well, Akron) and add instant buzz to a city long associated with professional sports heartbreak. LeBron made the Cavs good and Cleveland a destination. Imagine.

Read the rest after the jump.

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