The 5 most epic matchups between Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett
Ask any NBA fan worth their salt to list down 10 of the best power forwards to ever lace them up, and you’ll likely hear Minnesota Timberwolves franchise player Kevin Garnett and San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan come out of their mouths. The two big men have defined what a power forward should be able to do during the 2000s and are still influential in how many of today’s bigs play.
The two future Hall of Famers is the complete opposite of the other. Garnett is expressive and energetic; Duncan is probably the guy Kawhi Leonard took inspiration from in terms of privacy. The Big Ticket makes a lot of explosive highlights; The Big Fundamental has as bland of a playing style as humanly possible.
However, no one can deny that they both command double teams and respect from their opponents whenever they are on the court. And the league is always given a treat when they face each other.
They’ve squared off a total of 44 times, spoiling the league with a rich trove of matches to go back to and review. If you’re looking for five of the most explosive duels, you don’t have to anywhere but here. These games are listed in chronological order to showcase how these two have fared in their rivalry through the years.
The Opening Salvo (February 24, 1998, MIN 99-105 SAS)
Tim Duncan entered the league during the 1997-98 season after being drafted by the Spurs with the top overall pick, and it didn’t take long before the two showed how explosive their coming battles will be for the coming years.
Garnett played for 40 minutes in an attempt by him and Stephon Marbury to keep the Timberwolves in the game. Meanwhile, Duncan played for only 35 minutes as he had teammates like Vinny Del Negro and Jarren Jackson to back him up in spite of David Robinson’s absence.
The two young stars put on a show as they wowed the crowd with their moves. Duncan finished with 28 points, 19 rebounds, three assists, and a block. Garnett had an equally impressive stat line of 25 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, four steals, and a block.
It was a signal to the fans of what’s to come whenever these two butt heads down low.
The Kevin Garnett Show (November 17, 2000, SAS 94-99 MIN)
This game encapsulated how much Garnett meant to the Timberwolves throughout the time he was with the franchise. Starbury left for the Big Apple, and it was up to him to carry the team on his own. Meanwhile, Duncan was also starting to carry the Spurs load for an aging Admiral Robinson.
Garnett put on a monster display as almost all of the Timberwolves’ plays went through him. He finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and three blocks on 67% shooting. He was the sole reason the Wolves didn’t lose that game.
Meanwhile, Duncan had a solid night despite the loss. He had a stat line of 22 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, a steal, and two blocks in 44 minutes of action.
The Battle of the Titan Forwards (April 21, 2001, MIN 82-87 SAS)
If somebody asks what a traditional big man can do on the court, you show them the first game of the 2001 Playoffs’ first-round duel between the Spurs and the Timberwolves. Both showed power and finesse in the post as well as the vision to find the open man when they get doubled. It’s a fundamentalist coach’s dream to have a big that plays like how they did.
Duncan eventually ran away with the victory after posting a superb stat line of 33 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, a steal, and four blocks. The defense didn’t know how to deal with Duncan’s versatility. Garnett didn’t fall behind with his 25 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and one block.
It was a marvelous effort from both men that will stand in the annals of basketball history.
Tim Duncan Time at the SBC (January 14, 2004, MIN 100-93 SAS)
Duncan exploded for another impressive night at Garnett’s expense, but it’s actually his Timberwolves who got the last laugh in spite of Timmy’s stellar individual effort.
The then-two time NBA champion had an incredible game as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had the entire game flow through his hot hands. He finished with an eye-popping 36 points, 20 rebounds, seven assists, a steal, and a block.
Garnett didn’t have the hottest hand that night as Sam Cassell was shooting lights out. However, he was still a solid interior presence who notched 22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, a steal, and a block in only 35 minutes of play.
Tim Duncan Makes Kevin Garnett Green at the Garden (February 8, 2009, SAS 105-99 MIN)
This is the final time the two were at their peak at the same time. Garnett finally won his championship in Boston and was trying to get another with the team’s experienced core of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. However, he was on his way down as that season was the start of his decline. However, he finished with a solid stat line of 26 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and a block.
Meanwhile, Duncan’s decline wouldn’t happen until the 2010-11 season. He was still operating at the top of his game at this time, finishing with 23 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and a block.
These two big men are some of the greatest power forwards to ever play in the NBA. While the league is now all about the small ball and three-point shots, these two would be even more lethal players if they were playing under today’s rules during their peak.
It’s up to you who you deem is the better power forward between the two. All we can do is thank them for showing us what a proper power forward should be like.