The Spurs were without Duncan for the final 28 minutes on Saturday, after an ugly collision with Wizards swingman Martell Webster zapped much of the energy out of AT&T Center and had players on both sides worried as he left the game with the assistance of teammates DeJuan Blair and Stephen Jackson. The Wizards took advantage of their shell-shocked opponent, trimming a 27-point deficit down to six in the fourth quarter but were unable to overcome a miserable first half and lost their fourth game in a row, 96-86.
“It was night and day. Second half, we play, we have pride and we showed them,” Nene said. “I’m happy with the team, the way we made it back. We had an opportunity but this game is so fair sometimes. They deserve it. That’s all I can say.”
Like many in the arena, Nene was overcome with emotion with about four minutes left in the second quarter, when Webster made a baseline drive and had his shot blocked from behind by Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard. Webster fell to the ground and rolled into Duncan, whose back was turned to the action.
“Oh, that was scary,” Wittman said. “You never want to see that.”
Duncan eventually twisted and crumpled into a heap, unable to move as his teammates and Coach Gregg Popovich huddled around the player who led the franchise to four NBA championships and has kept it relevant for the past 16 seasons. Before going down, Duncan was once again methodically effective, scoring eight points with five rebounds in 13 minutes. Nene, who worked out with Duncan during the lockout nearly two years ago, said he told him, “No, no, no, no, no.”
Webster, who watched Duncan collapse in front of him took it even harder after Duncan walked off the court and headed to the locker room, never to return after spraining his already injured knee and suffering a sprained right ankle in the process.
“I lost my footing, right there in the air. That’s an unfortunate situation,” Webster said after scoring 14 points. “I was sad to see him go down. I would never wish that upon anybody, let alone fall on anybody like that. It was crazy it happened, but my prayers, my heart goes out to him that everything is okay and he has a speedy and healthy recovery.”
The Spurs didn’t appear to be immediately affected by losing Duncan, as they outscored the Wizards 13-1 and led, 51-24, before halftime. Tony Parker (19 points, 12 assists) pushed the lead back up to 27 with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. But the Spurs were quickly undone by boredom or the loss of Duncan, as the Wizards staged an improbable second-half comeback.