SAN ANTONIO — Tim Duncan is undergoing a renaissance after signing a three-year extension with the Spurs in the offseason. Duncan, who briefly contemplated retirement, entered Saturday night’s game averaging 17.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, and 2.4 assists in 30 minutes. And though he scored only 5 points (on 2-of-13 shooting) in a 103-88 win over the Celtics, he still pulled down 12 boards and had two blocks.
“He’s competitive,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the game. “I really believe it’s that simple. I really do. Last year in the Oklahoma [Western Conference final] series he struggled with his shot. He struggled with his free throws. I guarantee you this summer, he put the time in the gym and he’s back. It’s amazing.
“He’s making the jump shot especially. To me that’s the biggest change that I see. He’s shooting the heck out of the basketball from that 15-20-foot range. I really think the explanation is Tim is very competitive, he didn’t like the way the season ended last year and he thinks the team has a chance to win it this year. And he’s going to go out with a bang.
“He’s one of the greatest competitors out there and people don’t see that because he’s got the poker face. I see it every time I see it and he plays against us.”
Rivers compared Duncan with the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett.
“They go about it in completely different ways, but they’re both extremely professional as far as the way they prepare for each game,” Rivers said. “They’re serious about the game. Again, they do it differently. But anyone on their team, watch how they work and you watch the young guys all around the league and how they get ready and that’s why you’re that and that’s why he’s that. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
“They’re creatures of habits. They take the exact same amount of shots before each game and shootaround. Kevin goes to the exact same spots and has to make the exact number. Some days it takes 10 minutes and some days it takes an hour but he’s not going to stop until he gets to his number.”
Rajon Rondo has 33 turnovers in his past six games, giving it up seven times on Saturday night — equaling the season-high mark he set the night before in Houston.
Although Rondo has double-digit assists in five of his six games since returning from his two-game suspension, the miscues are rising. On Saturday, he was constantly trying to thread passes into tight spots and the result was generally negative.
Who’s at the ‘2’?
Courtney Lee got his second consecutive start against the Spurs but it’s apparent Rivers is having trouble deciding what to do at shooting guard. He wanted to use Lee as the starter, but his lack of scoring has forced Rivers to use Jason Terry as a starter.
Rivers started Lee Friday against the Rockets on a hunch, but Lee had only 8 points. On Saturday, Lee finished with 11, just the fifth time in 23 games he has scored in double figures.
“[The Rockets] got off to a great start in the first quarter and a great start in the third quarter,” said Rivers. “I don’t know if it was Courtney-related or Courtney had nothing to do with other guys taking wide-open shots. We have to get off to a better start on the road and a better start to start the half than we did [Friday].”
The Celtics did get off to a better start Saturday, jumping ahead, 8-2. before San Antonio responded with a 13-4 run.
Time to rest
The Celtics will take Sunday off and fly to Chicago before resuming practice Monday in preparation for Tuesday’s game against the Bulls . . . Avery Bradley worked out before the game with Celtics player development coordinator Keyon Dooling as he strives to return from shoulder surgery by the end of the month.