It isn’t enough for the San Antonio Express’ Buck Harvey to have written “The Graduate” ; he’s also compelled to smear the Spurs’ Tim Duncan (above right, tangling with Brendan Haywood) after an uncharacteristicaly poor showing last night against the Wizards.

What happened Saturday also reminded everyone that a third ring didn’t change Duncan’s tortured reality. He’s still dependent ” perhaps more than any superstar ” on officials who allow him to play his game.

Duncan seems to get more human when the wrong ref walks out. There was one in the crew Saturday, and some in the Spurs’ locker room wonder if Duncan let that get to him. The Wizards bodied him without double teams, pinching him with some athletes, and it was clear in the second quarter that Duncan was frustrated.

Then Duncan went inside, missed and felt he’d been fouled. The Wizards started going the other way, and Duncan reached out to grab a jersey, as he often does, to show the refs exactly what a foul is. But Duncan didn’t tug hard enough, and play continued.

When Parker came up with a steal, scoring on the other end off Daniels to pull the Spurs within two points, Duncan was still in the middle of the floor wanting to argue.

Afterward Duncan dressed quickly as he talked. “Just a long night,” he said. “Those guys played well tonight, give them a lot credit. We compounded it with myself playing very, very badly. It just happens. Balls not bouncing the right way, the whistles not coming.”

That was his only mention of the officiating. But even that one sentence would make a few people smile in Boston. The Celtics were the ones who questioned the calls the night before when they tried to defend Duncan.

That’s the way it is in this game; someone always has a beef. But there are times when this part of the game begins to affect Duncan and change him, too. The Olympics were an example, as was last June. Then he shot 10 of 27 in the first two games in Detroit and followed with a free-throw meltdown in Game 5.