SAN ANTONIO (AP) — It's a tense moment on the court and Tim Duncan is focused, watching one opponent out of the corner of his eye as he sizes up another.
Duncan suddenly pushes aside the charge of Cory Joseph and wraps up teammate Aron Baynes in a chokehold from behind, eliciting laughter that breaks the pressure.
There is always some mischief behind the steely gaze of the San Antonio Spurs' veteran forward. Always on the watch for a chance to prank or tease his teammates, Duncan is fully embracing another postseason with the only franchise he has ever played for.
"I always tell people Timmy is very funny," said Tony Parker, Duncan's teammate for 13 years. "I know he is very quiet and doesn't talk a lot to the media, but with us it's a great relationship."
After averaging 21.9 points and 12 rebounds in 15 previous postseasons, Duncan had 27 points and seven rebounds in 38 minutes during San Antonio's 90-85 victory over Dallas in the opener of their first-round series.
"It is always an exciting time and it is always a great time," Duncan said. "I always look forward to a different intensity level. I might be even more excited now because I know there are only a couple more left in my career. I'm going to take the opportunity and really remember it."
Duncan is having one of the finest seasons of his 17-year career. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising, considering he is so young at heart even as he prepares to celebrate his 38th birthday Friday. The man who has won four NBA titles, two MVP awards and been a 14-time All-Star proudly confesses he loves reading comic books and playing video games.
"I enjoy jokes, smiling, and making people smile," Duncan has said. "I may be a little different, but that's OK, who wants to be normal anyway?"
And Duncan is anything but ordinary.
He has only gotten better since winning NBA Rookie of the Year award in 1998 and the excellence showed up again Sunday against Dallas. He had nine points on 4-for-5 shooting in the final quarter as the Spurs rallied from a 10-point deficit with 7:45 remaining.
"He's a good player, a good finisher," Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "Duncan in there is obviously still solid. Both shoulders, good on the face up and he's good on the block."
Teams have pushed Duncan back out of his comfort zone on occasion, forcing him to avoid his favored bank shot. So he has added a straightway jumper in the past few seasons and has been more active under the basket. He averaged 15.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.9 blocks this season.