Tim Duncan.

Tim Duncan: Father time is ready to finally defeat the Big Fundamental

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Game six between the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs has turned into a hugely significant game for the latter organisation in more ways than one. 

Gregg Popovich's men face elimination from the playoffs tonight after the Thunder took a 3-2 series lead in San Antonio on Wednesday. 

A loss will end their hopes of a sixth championship but the franchise could also be saying goodbye to the great Tim Duncan too. 

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The legendary power forward turned 40 in April and for the first time in his illustrious career, it looks like his age has finally caught up with him. 

The ageless Duncan is finally ageing. He has defied father time for so long, but eventually it catches up with you and that has been apparent in the Western Conference semi-finals series with OKC. 

The five-time champion may have played his final game in front of his adoring fans in San Antonio and if that turns out to be the case, it's a shame he wasn't able to receive the adulation and reception that he deserves. 

If there's one team who can overturn a series deficit and still emerge victorious, however, it's the Spurs. They have shown time and again under Popovich that they should never be counted out and they are more than capable of going into a hostile Chesapeake Energy Arena and forcing a game seven on their home floor. 

Oklahoma City Thunder  v San Antonio Spurs

In any case, win or lose, we should now treat every game as Duncan's last so that the basketball world is ready to give him a proper send-off. 

Whether his last game is tonight, on Sunday, next month or even next year, the greatest power forward of all-time will certainly not have a Kobe Bryant-like farewell tour. He'd rather bow out in a muted fashion, much like his demeanour.

Basketball fans, and Spurs fans, in particular, have grown accustomed to seeing Duncan on the court year in and year out despite getting older with each campaign. We've almost accepted that he would never retire, that the moment would not happen. 

Instead, we have focused on more entertaining players like Steph Curry, LeBron James or Russell Westbrook while the Big Fundamental has gone about his business as normal, being efficient in a San Antonio uniform and always competing for championships. 

San Antonio Spurs v Charlotte Hornets

We have almost taken his presence on the hardwood for granted. He may not be fully appreciated until he's gone for good. 

In the Spurs' seven-game defeat to the L.A. Clippers in the first round of the 2014-15 playoffs, Duncan amazingly averaged 17.9 points and 11.1 rebounds in 35 minutes – including a big 27 and 11 performance in Game 7.

Duncan didn't need to announce anything when the game was done, as it was obvious he was returning for another year. Why would he retire? He was the same player as always.

This year's postseason hasn't followed the same pattern, though. He averaged career-lows across the board in minutes, points and rebounds, but this was Tim Duncan, nobody was worried as he would turn it on in when it matters.

San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns

But it matters now and the two-time MVP is unable to flip a switch and roll back the years. The big man is playing just 20 minutes a night and is averaging a meagre four points and four rebounds.

In game four against OKC, for the first time in 249 playoff games, the 15-time All-Star was held scoreless. He didn't even attempt a shot in 12 minutes of play. The alarm bells began to sound.

Game five was not much better either as he scored just five points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field. He is still contributing on the defensive end and is still the best rim protector the Spurs have as he showed late in game five with a vintage block on Russell Westbrook who drove down the lane for the lay-up.

The center took a breather immediately after that play, though, and Steven Adams - the man he was guarding - benefitted from a dunk on the following possession.

San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns

The Wake Forest product is still an important member of the Spurs team, both on and off the court, but his impact is now limited. As one of the five best players in NBA history, he shouldn't be reduced to a bit-part role as he draws the curtain on his incredible career.

It has been expected all year, as almost a formality you could say, that the conference finals would pit the two best teams in the league against one another - the Spurs and the Golden State Warriors - given the record-breaking seasons they both had respectively.

The Thunder, however, are now ready to spoil the party and emerge as the unlikely opponents for the Warriors who wait in the wings after dispatching the Portland Trail Blazers in five games.

Whatever happens in Oklahoma City tonight, if it is to be Duncan's last game or not, the Big Fundamental will leave a lasting legacy not only in San Antonio but in the NBA and the sport as a whole. He deserves to be celebrated.

San Antonio Spurs
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Tim Duncan
Tony Parker

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