Duncan leads team to title; earns MVP
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 23 -- Tim Duncan may not listen to his critics, but Thursday night, he silenced them.
Duncan tallied 25 points and 11 rebounds en route to leading the Spurs past the visiting Pistons, 81-74, in Game 7 of The Finals. The victory gave Duncan his third championship ring and third Finals MVP award in seven seasons.
"Tim was demonstrative and all those things people said he wasn't and isn't in this series," said Spurs guard Brent Barry. "And that's why he's the MVP once again."
Duncan was blasted by some for missing seven free throws in Game 5 and for not demanding the ball in Game 6.
Throughout the ordeal, Duncan's teammates insisted the analysis went unheard by their leading scorer.
But for nearly a 14 minute stretch in the second and third quarter of Game 7, when Duncan failed to register a field goal, one had to wonder if the critics were right. At the 6:18 mark of the third period, however, Duncan scored his first of 12 points that he would tally over a five-and-half minute stretch to help the Spurs turn a seven-point deficit into a 57-57 tie heading into the fourth. It was clear, as Horry said after the win, the Spurs "only go as far as Tim will take us."
"He's one of the best players in the world, so we knew that sooner or later he was going to appear and take us to the win," added Spurs guard Manu Ginobili. "When he started making those shots, Detroit started to worry. The whole game opened."
Duncan's spurt proved to be a catalyst, indeed, as the Spurs scored 40 of their 81 points in the last quarter-and-a-half.
"I felt like the game was going bad for me," Duncan said. "But it was about just kind of pushing through it and just the perseverance. Those guys, my teammates, just continue to throw the ball in and to feed me. They were more confident in me than I was, and that is so appreciated.
"They just kept coming to me and kept giving me opportunities."
That's because even if Duncan wasn't aware of the criticisms, his teammates were. And one of the biggest critics following Game 6 was Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. After Duncan didn't touch the ball for nearly half of the fourth quarter, Popovich said that the perimeter players needed "to know where Timmy Duncan is on the court and to remember that that's how we played all year long."
As a result, feeds to the post were abundant in Game 7. To his credit, Duncan never forced shots in those situations, even during his drought. Two shaky performances and the pressures of a Finals Game 7 would turn most star players into Quick Draw McGraw.
But before the contest, Duncan said, "I'll try to be as aggressive as I can to get the ball whenever I can, but I'm not going to demand the ball and clock it up and make it whether I score we win or not."
"Whenever he saw somebody crowding him, double-teaming or helping, he just kicked the ball and made it available to the open shooter," Ginobili said about Duncan in Game 7. "That's what makes him one of the best players in the world."
And maybe that's why we should believe Ginobili when he says Duncan's "not the kind of guy who's going to be worried about what people say." Thursday night, he didn't play like he was worried about proving the sports radio commentators or the newspaper columnists wrong. He played to win.
When all was said and done, the Spurs did just that.
In winning his third NBA title, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich became the fifth coach in NBA history to accomplish that feat.
John Kundla won five titles with the Minneapolis Lakers from 1949-54. Under the leadership of Red Auerbach, the Boston Celtics earned nine championships from 1957-1966. Pat Riley garnered four championships with the Los Angeles Lakers from 1982-88. Phil Jackson followed with six rings with the Chicago Bulls from 1991-98 and three more with the Lakers from 2000-02.
When a reporter asked Popovich about the possibility of joining such exclusive company midway through the series, the Spurs head man refused to talk about anything other than his team.
"Next question," he uttered.
After the Game 7 victory, the question came up again.
"So bored of this," Popovich said. "So boring."
Lord of the Rings
With Thursday's Game 7 win, Spurs forward Robert Horry moved to a a perfect 6-0 in Finals series. The 13-year veteran also became one of only 12 players with six or more championship rings. Just six players have won more NBA titles than Horry, and all were a part of the Celtics 11-title dynasty of the 50s and 60s.
Horry, the winningest active player in the league with respect to championships earned, won back-to-back titles with the Rockets (‘94, ‘95) and then won three straight championships with the Los Angeles Lakers (‘00, ‘01, ‘02) before garnering a ring with the Spurs. He became only the second player ever to win three titles with three different teams.
Horry was asked following Game 7 if his laurels have sunk in yet.
"It hasn't," he responded. "When you win a championship, period, it never hits you until you get home the next day. You're so overwhelmed right now that you don't know. It's just a whirlwind and you wake up tomorrow, turn the TV on and you see the Spurs win the Championship -- that's when it really hits you."
NBA.com is part of Turner - SI Digital, part of the Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network. Advertise on NBA.com | Career Opportunities | Help