They have a mutual respect for each other and for the game. Yet perhaps such heartfelt similarities end there.
The NBA Finals will bring these two together when & where it matters most, and this may be where these two can define themelves in two very different ways.
We know both can score in the paint and from the perimeter. We know both play decent defense and we know both have the potential to significantly impact games. Yes, Duncan is the more elite player, but is this as true today as it was when he was in his prime?
Maybe so… Maybe not.
Duncan’s stats are down across the board, but this is expected due to his age (37) and in the reduction of minutes played (35.1 MPG/career vs. 32.25/’12-’13 season – including playoffs). Yet the St. Croix native is still very effective especially in how coach Gregg Popovich utilizes him by dispersing his minutes. The Heat know he’s not the only big man to watch closely now that Tiago Splitter has become a formidable threat. The 2nd year player from Brazil has worked his way into San Antonio’s starting 5 by impressing coach Popovich with his consistent play and his high shooting percentage against Memphis in the Western Conference Finals. Duncan does have fresh legs and can still hang with the Bosh’s speed. But Depending on how much Miami is willing to deal with Splitter AND presses Duncan to play off his game will determine whether the Duncan we’ve come to know shows up or a is but a shell of his former self.
Bosh, on the other hand, may be a career-long work in progress. His stats tend to fluctuate depending upon the year, but his ability to be effective rests solely on how physical defenses chose to play him. In the Conference Finals, Indiana had Roy Hibbert and David West punished Bosh on a regular basis, disrupting his role in just about every contest except game 3 where he lacked in points (9), but did log 8 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals. Yet Bosh has put to the Spurs in a Heat uniform - shooting just under 56%. Tiago Splitter and Duncan are not as tall, nor as physical as Hibbert is and was on his own. West was the X-Factor and it showed in how much Bosh was virtually non-existent against the Pacers.
But the past is past and The 2013 NBA Finals culminate tonight in Miami. Indiana was Bosh’s biggest test while Memphis was Duncan’s average – at best. Duncan may be the Duncan of old unless Miami says otherwise. Likewise, Bosh could make game 3’s performance against Indiana a sign of better things to come if San Antonio is off the mark.
Ultimately, the truth lies in consistency and a 7-game series is all about consistency.