No 2nd-year slump
Tim Duncan's sophomore season another triumph
Posted: Friday May 28, 1999 05:03 PM
Duncan's second year in the NBA finds him once again flourishing in the playoffs in his typical understated manner.
"We just feel good all around. We've been, of course, winning games and playing well, and you can't help but feel good in that situation," said the former Wake Forest star.
San Antonio advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1995 by sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 in the semifinals, with Duncan playing some of his best basketball.
The top-seeded Spurs face the Portland Trail Blazers beginning Saturday in the conference finals in the Alamodome.
Duncan, who averaged 21.7 points and 11.4 rebounds in the regular season, has averaged 23.9 points and 10.75 rebounds through two rounds of the playoffs. Against the Lakers, Duncan scored 25, 21, 37 and 33 points in the four games.
With David Robinson taking on more defensive duties this season, Duncan has become the Spurs' go-to guy on offense.
And he likes having the ball at clutch time.
"You just have to not be afraid of having the ball in that situation, succeed or fail. You want to have to take the shot or want to have to have the possession, and some people want it, some people don't," he said.
Robinson doesn't mind that Duncan now has the higher profile job. The 10-year veteran and former MVP would like to add an NBA championship to his list of achievements.
"The thing I understand the most right now is nobody wins the game by themselves," Robinson said. "That's the great thing about this team. Tim does a great job, and he did a great job [against the Lakers]. But everybody contributed."
At practices, Robinson and Duncan seem genuinely friendly with one another. They've made humorous television commercials together. The two 7-footers laugh and talk when posing for publicity photographs.
"Every person on this team, we're all friends with each other," Duncan said. "Everybody's real cordial to each other and real nice."
His teammates' trust of him on the court has helped in his approach to these playoffs compared with last year, Duncan said.
"It's a different team than we had last year. I feel confident in my role and what we're doing," he said.
Duncan turned in some bold performances in last year's playoffs, when San Antonio advanced to the conference semifinals before losing to Utah.
"He came out and had some big games," coach Gregg Popovich said. "So his demeanor that you see now is the same demeanor he had last year. He's out there to compete and win."
Duncan and Robinson have learned this season to play more effectively alongside each other, Popovich added.
"They've made a lot of strides in basically staying out of each other's way on the court. When one's low, the other one's high and vice versa. They can each take advantage of their skills," the coach said.
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