And Duncan never gets mad.
Seldom shows any emotion at all, in fact. So that the Jazz could have done enough to incite the superstar forward to lash out at center Mehmet Okur in the fourth quarter in front of 19,911 at EnergySolutions Arena demonstrated just how much harder they played defense against him this time - and suggested that the powerful Spurs might not be so unstoppable, after all.
"We just needed one win, just one game to get our confidence back," the Jazz's Deron Williams said. "One game of playing great basketball for 48 minutes. I think we did that tonight."
Close to it, anyway.
Though the Jazz started terribly, missing 10 of their first 12 shots, they eventually recovered and blew past the Spurs with an astonishing 68-point second half.
It helped that Duncan strained against foul trouble almost from the beginning. But Williams scored 31 points while teammate Carlos Boozer added 27 and 12 boards, and the Jazz showed the kind of renewed defensive intensity they had been seeking in the three days since their last game.
"If we get everybody to play with intensity and passion and realize that each game is crucial . . . play with a little bit of desperation, so to speak, we will have a good chance," Boozer said.
Tony Parker led the Spurs with 25 points and seven assists, but Duncan finished with only 16 points and eight rebounds - snapping a streak of 11 straight playoff games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Jazz made Duncan fight for everything, and the referees helped the cause by calling him for three first-half fouls.
"It's tough to get going and to stay aggressive when you have fouls on you like that," Duncan said.
By the fourth quarter, Duncan was so frustrated - he also committed eight turnovers, and acknowledged that the foul trouble got into his head - that he briefly went after Okur, yelling at him and angrily pushing away the hands of the players who intervened.
"It was just playing basketball," Okur said. "Nothing else. . . . I don't know what happened."
The rest of the Jazz were careful not to assign too much importance into Duncan's uncharacteristic outburst, or proclaim themselves suddenly in control of the best-of-seven series - clearly wary of what Duncan and the Spurs might manage in Game 4 on Monday night.
"I don't want to say that we frustrated him," said the Jazz's Jarron Collins, who appeared to do just that in 11 solid minutes off the bench. "You're going to have to ask him if he was frustrated or not. But we definitely got him out of his game, where he was pressing a little bit to find shots. Being in foul trouble probably played into that."
Nevertheless, the Jazz were elated to finally win a game in the series.
Fighting back from a nine-point deficit, they surged ahead when Williams and Boozer took over in the third quarter, scoring 19 of their 58 combined points.
For a moment, Duncan was repelling their every move - scoring an alley-oop lay-up after Williams tied the game with free throws, then dropping in an easy bucket over Okur after Williams tied it again with a three-pointer.
But when guard Derek Fisher "finally figured out a way to close my eyes and make one," a three-pointer with 6:01 left in the period that gave the Jazz a 62-60 lead, they were off and running. Fisher's basket ignited a 12-3, and the Jazz finished by scoring 34 points in the fourth quarter while holding the Spurs to only 16. The Spurs were left to ponder how to snap the Jazz's seven-game home winning streak in the playoffs, and counter the suddenly resurgent Utah bench, which enjoyed enough contributions to overcome offensive absenteeism from Okur and forward Andrei Kirilenko.
"We were aggressive," Boozer said. "We attacked. Everybody came out ready. . . . We said if we attack and be aggressive, good things would happen for the team, and that's what happened."