Duncan had a triple-double and the Spurs outshot the NBA's best-shooting team as they cruised to a 110-89 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics in Game One of their Western Conference first-round series.
A leading candidate for Most Valuable Player, Duncan had 21 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists and five blocks. He more than picked up the slack for center David Robinson, who left with a sore back early in the second quarter and did not return.
"They were coming hard on the double-teams," Duncan explained. "We had to make them pay somehow. I kicked it out and guys were knocking down shots. We'll take it how we can get it."
Duncan's all-around brilliance allowed his teammates to play off him. The Spurs had six players in double figures and shot a scorching 59 percent (43-of-73) from the field despite an entire fourth quarter of garbage time.
"Tim played phenomenal tonight," Spurs forward Malik Rose said. "Our entire offense goes through him and he really doesn't get the credit that he deserves. Tonight he came out and made things look so easy. He is just such a great player."
"He gets better each year," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich added. "He feels comfortable and trusts his teammates. He makes everyone better on the court."
After being played to a 52-52 stalemate by the seventh-seeded SuperSonics in the first half, the Spurs dominated the third quarter. They shot 75 percent (15-of-20) and used runs of 8-0 and 21-4 to open a 90-65 lead. Duncan and Tony Parker scored 10 points each in the period.
A teenage rookie point guard matched up against perennial All-Star Gary Payton in his first playoff game, Parker scored 21 points -- one shy of his season high -- on 9-of-12 shooting.
Steve Smith scored 17 points, Rose and Antonio Daniels each added 13 and Danny Ferry 11 for the Spurs, who took advantage of the double-teams on Duncan to make 9-of-15 3-pointers. Parker, Smith and Ferry made three apiece.
Duncan's triple-double was the first in the playoffs by a Spur since May 17, 1993, when Robinson had 20 points, 17 rebounds and 11 assists vs. Portland.
Robinson will undergo an MRI on Sunday to determine the extent of his injury. He is questionable for Game Two of the best-of-five series Monday at San Antonio.
"David never says if something is killing him, or if he hurts, he says he's fine," Popovich said. "When he came out of the game and gave me that look, that was telling for me. If he's healthy, he'll come back and play because we need him."
Vin Baker scored 22 points and Payton added 19 for the SuperSonics, who shot 48 percent during the season but just 5-of-17 in the pivotal third quarter.
"We went south. They went north," Seattle guard Brent Barry said. "We went so far south we were eating Chinese food."
"The third quarter turned into a track meet and we had no one to pull us together and stop the bleeding," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. "It happened so fast. If you don't play every possession, the game can turn that quickly in the playoffs."
A 3-pointer by Payton had the Sonics within 58-57 with 8:31 left in the third period before Duncan's basket triggered an 8-0 burst.
"We didn't stick to the game plan and started settling for jump shots," Payton said. "Those long rebounds allowed them to run."
A layup by Payton made it 69-61 with 5:11 to go before the floodgates opened. Parker had two 3-pointers and Smith made one before Duncan's hammer dunk on a 5-on-1 break made it 84-63 with 1:16 remaining.
"We got a couple of turnovers and really started running the ball," Duncan said. "We got the ball up the floor and didn't really let them set their defense."
"The game got turned to light speed in the third quarter," Baker said.
Duncan fed Rose for a layup and sank two free throws before Daniels hit a jumper to close the quarter. Duncan got his 10th rebound with 9:22 to play and took a well-deserved seat shortly thereafter.
The teams combined to make their first nine shots and stayed hot throughout the first half, which ended in a 52-52 tie. Baker, who struggled at times this season, scored 16 points off the bench. In the first half, Seattle shot 56 percent (22-of-39) while San Antonio shot 57 percent (20-of-35).