Earlier in his career, when head coach Gregg Popovich opted to bring Manu Ginobili off the bench in favor of less talented players like Brent Barry and Michael Finley the saying went "It doesn't matter who starts the game, but who finishes it." In honor of Tim Duncan's Game 1 of the the 2013 Finals I'd like to amend that saying to "It doesn't matter how you start a game, but how you finish."
Duncan had as dredful a first quarter as you could ask for. He started off 0-5 and picked up two early fouls. He returned in the second quarter to help stimey a Heat run and slice a nine point Heat lead to three by halftime. Duncan continued to dominate in the second half on his way to 20 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three blocks as the Spurs picked up a 92-88 victory. After the game, Duncan discussed that his confidense in his shot never waned despite his early struggles.
"I didn't change anything, honestly. The first five shots I got were all good shots‑‑ actually minus one. The first four shots were really good shots. Shots I usually make. Shots I'm comfortable taking," Duncan said. "So I didn't change anything about it. I think I got a lay‑up to go, and that kind of changed it for me and just kind of went from there."
If we're doing Finals MVP rankings after one game I don't know if we put Duncan ahead of Tony Parker or vice versa, but they're one and two in some order and it's really close. He anchored a ridiculous Spurs defensive effort in the second half and twice late the fourth quarter stretched the San Antonio Spurs lead from two to four. His tip in on a Kawhi Leonard missed shot and two free throws a few minutes later didn't have the drama, absurdity and timeliness of Tony Parker's final shot, but didn't so much in terms of quelling some momentum the Heat built.
He didn't have an ideal start, but by the end of the night Duncan's numbers looked a lot like his career averages in the Finals, 22.7 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 3.0 blocks. Call him Groundhog Day, Big Fundamental.
All I know is Thursday night we were all reminded how much fun it is to have Tim Duncan back in the Finals.