Duncan in the post remains a reliable option for Spurs

By Jeff McDonald

MIAMI — When the Spurs needed a big basket late in Saturday’s victory at Houston, they pulled a page from the past.

They tossed the ball to Tim Duncan in the low post, stood back and watched him go to work.

Duncan rewarded his team with a post-up basket on Chuck Hayes to break a 117-117 tie with 1:09 to go and followed with a pair of free throws on the Spurs’ next possession.

For Duncan, in the midst of the lowest-scoring season of his Hall of Fame career, it’s not about scoring 20 points per game anymore. It’s about scoring two points when it most matters.

“He’s not the guy we just give the ball to over and over,” guard Manu Ginobili said. “In some parts of the game, we’re going to do it, but not as constant as we used to.”

In his 14th season at age 34, Duncan has become a role player in the Spurs’ offense, which is enjoying its most productive season of his tenure. He is averaging 13.3 points heading into tonight’s rematch with Miami, and his minutes (28:36) and touches (11.2 field-goal attempts) per game have dropped to career-low levels.

Duncan has joked to teammates that, sometimes, it feels like all he’s doing his running wind sprints throughout the course of a game.

“I still say if Tim was playing his normal 35 minutes, getting 20 touches a night, his numbers would be higher,” forward Richard Jefferson said. “But he’d get worn down quicker. We have the luxury of resting him.”

Or, put another way, the Spurs have the luxury of saving Duncan until they need him most.

A KING’S FOOTNOTE: Tonight at AmericanAirlines Arena, Spurs guard Chris Quinn will meet up with an old nemesis. In 2002, while a senior at Coffman High in Dublin, Ohio, Quinn finished runner-up for the state’s prestigious Mr. Basketball honors.

First place instead went to a junior at St. Mary’s-St. Vincent in Akron named LeBron James.

Quinn averaged 22.5 points per game that season at Coffman but doesn’t mind being the middle victim in James’ run of three-consecutive Mr. Basketball prizes. James, after all, went on to become a two-time NBA MVP, and counting.

“I guess if there’s someone to lose to in that kind of thing, he’s not a bad person to lose to,” said Quinn, who spent the first 2 1/2 seasons of his career with Miami. “I guess I’m an interesting footnote.”

CENTER OF ATTENTION: Though it’s come in a small sample size, coach Gregg Popovich likes what he’s seen so far from his latest starting lineup, with 6-foot-9 veteran Antonio McDyess replacing the shorter DeJuan Blair at center.

The move was made for defensive purposes, with an eye toward how the Spurs might defend some of the Western Conference’s better power forwards in the playoffs.

“It’s a good starting defensive group,” Popovich said. “(McDyess) matches up well with four-men on other teams. We want to take a look at that and get in a rhythm with that lineup.”

Blair hasn’t exactly been forgotten in the lineup switch. He is coming off back-to-back 14-point games as a reserve.

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