San Antonio Spurs' Tiago Splitter, left, of Brazil, and Golden State Warriors' Al Thornton, right, scramble for a rebound during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 21, 2011 in San Antonio. San Antonio won 111-96. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Duncan would be out “a while” but didn’t have a timetable.
The injury looked potentially serious as Duncan lay on his side, clutching his foot with both hands, for more than a minute. The 34-year-old All-Star steadied himself with the help of trainers while limping off the court.
Ekpe Udoh led Golden State with 15 points. It was Udoh’s foot that Duncan appeared to be trying to avoid while landing awkwardly after hitting a short jumper in the first quarter.
Until now, Duncan has avoided the aches and injuries that have hampered him in recent years. He’s been so surprisingly durable that he’s only missed one game. That was Saturday against Charlotte—when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich didn’t want to risk Duncan injuring himself on the second night of a back-to-back.
Popovich’s biggest fear happened two nights later instead.
The Warriors made a run at the Spurs run with Duncan out. Golden State trailed 64-58 in the third after a burst that left Popovich furious. His frustration cost him a technical foul, barking at official Leroy Richardson over a perceived foul on Richard Jefferson that wasn’t called.
But the Spurs—and Popovich—quickly settled down.
San Antonio ended the quarter on a 20-9 run to blow the game back open. Rookie Tiago Splitter, the 7-footer who got his first NBA start in place of Duncan on Saturday, filled in again for his idol and finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Steve Novak scored 13 points and Jefferson had 12 for the Spurs.
Acie Law and Dorrell Wright scored 14 apiece as the Warriors dropped their fifth straight. Golden State played a night after getting pummeled at Dallas by 28 points, and have one stop left in Houston on Wednesday before returning home Friday to host Toronto.
The loss assured Golden State a 14th straight season without a win in San Antonio. Put another way, the Warriors have never won in San Antonio since Duncan was drafted in 1997.
But Golden State has given the Spurs two Duncan scares this season.
In January, Duncan fell to the floor and cringed for about a minute during a 113-102 win at Golden State. He was diagnosed with a hyperextended left knee and returned to the game.
That wasn’t the case this time. He limped off the court with the help of trainers and did not return.
The AT&T Center fell quiet when Duncan crashed to the court and reached for his foot. Parker was one of the first players over to check on him; Parker then turned and winced at Popovich, who was standing in front of the Spurs bench with his hands in his pockets and watching his two-time MVP writhe on the ground.
Before Saturday, Duncan had been the only Spurs player to start the team’s first 68 games. Even though his role has greatly diminished and his averages are at career lows, Duncan remains a big reason why the Spurs (57-13) are on pace to surpass their franchise record of 63 wins set in 2005-06.