Summing it up

The Spurs (51-16) broke out of their mini offensive slump, but it still wasn’t enough to avert what easily could have been their third disappointing loss in nine days. Ball protection was bad and defense was even worse, particularly considering the Cavaliers (22-44) are the league’s most inept offensive teams even with a healthy Kyrie Irving. Thanks largely to the greatness of Tim Duncan, those blemishes didn’t cost them where it mattered most — the scoreboard.

Player of the game

Duncan was outstanding in Thursday’s victory over Dallas, and he was even better against the Cavaliers. Matched up for long stretches against one of his many admirers, former Texas standout Tristan Thompson, Duncan — little more than a month from 37 — dominated him and every one else on Cleveland’s front line with 30 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and five blocked shots. He had his fingerprints all over the final six minutes (see below), during which the Spurs pulled away after trailing by one.

The turning point

The Spurs were down 101-100 with 6:24 remaining when Duncan, as he’s done so many times over the years, took over. Six points, two assists, two rebounds and three blocks later, the Spurs had escaped. Coach Gregg Popovich would later offer up an assessment that pretty much summarizes the future Hall of Famer’s entire career in San Antonio: “Tim Duncan being amazing got us through.”