FINALS
SA Wins series 4-3
54-28, 22-19 away
74
1234T
DET1623181774
SA1820192481
59-23, 38-3 home
81

Spurs deny Pistons' bid to repeat

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Spurred by the will and wonder of Tim Duncan,

San Antonio is an NBA champion again.

NBA Finals To Go 7 Games
in Last 30 Years

Year

Winner

Opponent

2005

Spurs*

Pistons

1994

Rockets*

Knicks

1988

Lakers*

Pistons

1984

Celtics*

Lakers

1978

Bullets*

Sonics

*Home team

Duncan shrugged off a stretch of eight straight misses to

dominate the fourth quarter of Game 7, finishing with 25 points and

11 rebounds as the Spurs beat the Detroit Pistons 81-74 Thursday

night.

Duncan earned his third MVP of the finals, giving San Antonio

its third title in seven years and denying Detroit a chance to

repeat.

"He showed that he can not only deal with that pressure, but

overcome it," former teammate David Robinson said.

"A lot of athletes would have crumbled under that type of

pressure, but he came out in that second half and showed

unbelievable championship character. I'm so proud of him because he

just really solidified himself as one of the top couple of power

forwards ever. I mean, unbelievable character -- just awesome," he

said.

In turning around the worst postseason series of his career,

Duncan teamed with Manu Ginobili to help the Spurs overcome a

nine-point deficit in the third quarter to tie it going into the

final period.

Finals MVP Tim Duncan overpowered the Pistons with 25 points in Game 7.
Finals MVP Tim Duncan overpowered the Pistons with 25 points in Game 7.
Allen Einstein/Getty Images

The Spurs are certainly not a dynasty, but their staying power

as a championship caliber team -- and their performance in the NBA's

first Game 7 in the finals since 1994 -- helps validate their

legacy.

Ginobili scored 23 points with a series of slashing,

scintillating drives and big passes, and his drive through traffic

for a layup late in the fourth quarter took the last of the fight

out of the Pistons.

"I don't even think we've scratched the surface of him,"

Duncan said. "He's going to continue to grow, and we're going to

continue to grow around him."

Behind Duncan, the stoic established star, and Ginobili, the

flashy young Argentine who won an Olympic gold medal in Athens, the

Spurs celebrated on their home court with silver and black confetti

streaming down from the rafters.

"We just played a great team. I don't know how the hell we did

it, but I am thrilled," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after

embracing good friend Larry Brown as the game ended. Popovich

became the third coach with three titles, while the Detroit coach

headed into an uncertain future.

"I'm just as proud this year as I was last year," Brown said.

The Pistons recovered from two early blowout losses, won twice

and then split the next two games before Duncan and the Spurs

reasserted themselves in the end.

The NBA had waited a long time for a game with so much at stake

and so little room for error. And the difference came in the fourth

quarter, when the Spurs were able to make the plays the Pistons

couldn't.

Midway through the period, Ginobili assisted on a 3-pointer by

Robert Horry and Duncan found Bruce Bowen alone outside the arc for

another 3 that put San Antonio ahead 67-61. Detroit pulled within

four before the Duncan-Ginobili combo clicked perfectly on two

straight possessions.

Robert Horry (15 points) once again came up big for the Spurs.
Robert Horry (15 points) once again came up big for the Spurs.

First, Ginobili drove the lane and drew Duncan's defender,

zipping a pass to Duncan all alone on the baseline for a 19-footer.

Next, Duncan had three defenders collapsing on him when he saw

Ginobili all alone at the 3-point line. The shot was perfect, and

San Antonio led 72-65 with 2:57 left.

Detroit's next three possessions brought an airball, a foul shot

and an offensive foul, but all San Antonio could produce over that

shot was a single free throw by Duncan. The score was 73-68

entering the final minute when Ginobili made the play that clinched

it, weaving through several defenders for a layup that was almost

too easy, making it 75-68.

Detroit had won 10 straight postseason games with a chance to

eliminate its opponent and was trying to become the first team in

NBA history to win two Game 7s on the road in a postseason. As

resilient as they were, that turned out to be too tough of a task.

"It's just an unbelievable feeling," Ginobili said.

Duncan's greatness was as much in question as his team's. He had

struggled through out the series against a superior defensive team,

the Pistons presenting the toughest test the Spurs had faced in the

finals after defeating the 1999 Knicks and the 2003 Nets, teams

that might have been a little too pleased just to have a shot at

the title.

Duncan came up short on a dunk and a 21-footer early in the

third quarter, giving him six consecutive misses, and Detroit

slowly began to build upon its lead. A dunk by Tayshaun Prince, a

steal and two foul shots by Chauncey Billups, a poor possession by

San Antonio and a spin move by Antonio McDyess made it 48-39.

Duncan's string of misses reached eight before he converted a

three-point play, and Ginobili drove for a score off a turnover to

complete a 7-0 run that got the Spurs right back in it. A 14-foot

bank shot by Duncan -- a part of his usual repertoire that had been

absent in this series -- produced a 53-53 tie before he knocked down

another shot off the glass, this time from a few steps farther

away, to help produce a 57-57 tie entering the fourth.

Duncan had 12 points and six rebounds in the third quarter.