x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Duncan cannot digest Finals loss but coach Popovich will savour the moment

Duncan's teammates hail him as 'one of the greatest of all time, but Duncan was ruing missed opportunities after Game 7.

The San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan walked off the court a dispirited man. Steve Mitchell / AP Photo
The San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan walked off the court a dispirited man. Steve Mitchell / AP Photo

MIAMI // When the San Antonio Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the 2007 NBA finals, Tim Duncan took time to find a young LeBron James and offer some quiet words of encouragement.

Six years later, it was Duncan who needed the comforting.

As he walked off the court after a valiant effort came up short in Game 7 against the Miami Heat, Duncan was met by James and Dwyane Wade.

The two victors hugged the proudest of these old San Antonio Spurs, who pushed them to the limit in defence of their title. "He's one of the greatest of all time," Wade said of the 37-year-old Duncan.

Duncan, however, was ruing missed opportunities. "To be at this point with this team in this situation, where people every year continue to count us out, is a great accomplishment," he said, his voice quavering.

"To be in a Game 7 or be in a Game 6 and up one with two chances to win an NBA championship, that's tough to swallow."

"We were five seconds away from raising that trophy and it just didn't happen," said Manu Ginobili, recalling San Antonio's five-point lead with 21 seconds left in Game 6.

"At this point it's very hard because we're all sad and disappointed. We were so close to winning it."

The questions will start once again, just as they have almost since the Spurs last won the title, in 2007. Will Ginobili return? Can Duncan keep turning back the clock?

And does the 64-year-old coach Gregg Popovich have another year left in him?

Popovich said: "I'm going to get a meal. I'm not going to think about next season. I'm going to enjoy what they accomplished this season and feel badly about the loss all at the same time.

"I don't know how you do that, but I'll figure it out."

* Associated Press


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