Duncan seals West's victory with big plays down the stretch
Posted: Monday February 16, 2004 1:42AM; Updated: Monday February 16, 2004 2:28AM
By Marty Burns, SI.com
LOS ANGELES -- Shaquille O'Neal might have taken home MVP honors at Sunday's NBA All-Star Game. But Tim Duncan is still the reigning two-time league MVP.
Duncan's eight-foot jumper off the backboard with 26.1 seconds left put the West ahead to stay en route to a 136-132 victory. The 7-foot Spurs forward then helped seal the victory with some alert defense and a timely free throw. Thanks in large part to his large effort down the stretch, the West escaped with a 136-132 victory.
"Tim did what he did for us this summer in Puerto Rico, and what he's done for San Antonio all these years," said Sonics guard Ray Allen. "He's just solid down the stretch. You get him the ball and he gets you a basket."
Duncan's big shot came after Tracy McGrady had hit a free throw to put the East ahead 132-131. Coming off a set play drawn up in the ensuing timeout by Western Conference coach Flip Saunders, Duncan found himself in the low block against 6-foot-11 Hornets center Jamaal Magloire. With the Staples Center crowd on edge, he spun and calmly banked in an eight-foot jumper.
"It was a play that Flip drew up with a lot of options to it," Duncan said. "I was just one of the options. Shaq was the first one, Ray was the second and I was kind of the third."
In the locker room a few minutes later, Saunders said the play was designed all along for Duncan. But it would be typical of the low-key Duncan to deflect credit. Especially on Shaq's big night.
At any rate, Duncan then helped thwart the East's final chance to win the game. After a timeout, McGrady ran a pick-and-roll with Jermaine O'Neal on top. With Shaq coming out to defend, McGrady saw Jermaine O'Neal rolling toward the rim and tried to lob a pass to the 6-foot-11 Pacers star.
Reading the play like a cornerback, Duncan slid over just in time. O'Neal bobbled the ball out of bounds, and with a favorable call from the refs, the West had the lead and possession with 15.8 seconds left. After a pair of Allen free throws and a missed three-point attempt by Michael Redd, Duncan then iced the game with a foul shot to put the West up four with 2.1 seconds left.
In some ways Duncan's big plays Sunday were only fitting. Throughout All-Star Weekend much of the talk in L.A. centered around Shaq's standing as the game's most dominant player. Duncan, with his quiet economical brand of play, often seemed to go overlooked.
Other than switching his sneakers from glossy red to royal blue at halftime, Duncan kept a similar low profile during much of Sunday's Game. He finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and a steal. He also showed a little flair when he showed the ball briefly to Redd as he passed him by on his way to a fast-break dunk in the first half.
But for most of the game Duncan seemed content to stay in the shadows while the other All-Stars rocked the rim and pulled their playground crossovers.
"I wish I could be involved in the high-flying off the glass stuff, but that's just not what I do," Duncan said. "So I go out there, I play. I take my open shots and I try to move the ball around."
Duncan might not be the fanciest of All-Stars. But he showed that even on Shaq's big night, he is still a potent force. It's something the rest of the NBA should remember as it gets set for the second half of the season.