SAN ANTONIO, June 23 (Ticker) -- In his first Game 7, Tim Duncan was second to none and gave the San Antonio Spurs their third NBA title.

Reaffirming his status as the best player on the planet, Duncan came up big in the biggest game of his career as the Spurs found the resolve to dethrone the Detroit Pistons, 81-74, and win the championship.

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With his unique multidimensional talent, Duncan depleted and dissected the Pistons, collecting 25 points and 11 rebounds. He was the fulcrum of virtually every key play down the stretch.

"His complete game is so sound, so fundamnetal, so unnoticed at times, because if he didn't score, people think, 'Well, he didn't do anything,'" Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "But he was incredible and he was the force that got it done for us."

Shaky showings in Games 5 and 6 had many questioning Duncan's determination. Playing an all-or-nothing game for the first time, he did it all, rescuing the Spurs in the third quarter and controlling the game in the final period.

"It wasn't the greatest of games but there was a stretch where I felt really good and I just wanted to be assertive at that point," Duncan said.

"You follow your leader," Spurs guard Tony Parker said. "Timmy is the leader of the team, and he just carried us tonight."

Duncan scored when the Spurs needed it, then turned his teammates into stars. He even dove for a pair of loose balls, showing the Pistons he wanted the championship as badly as they did.

"They just kept coming to me and kept giving me the opportunities and I got one to fall in and two to fall in and things started happening," said Duncan, who made 10-of-27 shots. "Then I was able to draw some double-teams and got some guys some open shots."

"He put his team on his shoulders and carried them to a championship," Pistons center Ben Wallace said. "That's what the great players do."

Thriving off Duncan were Manu Ginobili, who scored 11 of his 23 points in the last 10 minutes, and wily veteran Robert Horry, who scored 15 points off the bench and collected his sixth championship.

Averaging 20 points and 14 rebounds in the series, Duncan captured his third Finals MVP award. He also powered the Spurs to titles in 1999 and 2003 and has put down the roots of possibly the league's next dynasty.

"In years past, we've lost six, seven, eight, nine guys in a year and rebuilt," Duncan said. "I think we've really got a core here that we're in love with, that obviously is a pretty decent core and we're going to have it together for a couple of years."

It also was the third title for Popovich, who was in a tough spot coaching against good friend and Pistons coach Larry Brown, who may have coached his last game and came up just short of going out on top.

"He made me feel real comfortable and he was congratulatory and is just classy beyond belief," said Popovich, who got his start in the NBA from Brown. "It felt weird."

"You want to win badly, but I also recognize the fact that another team deserved it," Brown said.

Detroit showed determination throughout the entire series, fighting back to erase a 2-0 deficit and showing amazing resiliency to win Game 6 on the road after losing Game 5 at home on an Horry 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

However, the Pistons did not get what they needed from several key players. Chauncey Billups, the 2004 Finals MVP, was held to 13 points on 3-of-8 shooting. Rasheed Wallace was hampered by foul trouble and held to 11.

Duncan opened the fourth quarter with a dunk to snap a 57-57 tie, and the Spurs never trailed again. A dunk by Ginobili and a 3-pointer by Horry made it 64-59 with 8:23 to go.

On one possession, Duncan passed out of a double-team to Horry, tracked down his missed 3-pointer, drew another double-team and found Bruce Bowen for a 3-pointer and a 67-61 advantage.

"You could tell when he caught the ball, how much more physical he was, getting in position and bumping and grinding and getting shots and making sure he got toward the rim, so that when people came at him he was in good position to open up a teammate," Popovich said.

Two minutes later, Duncan ran down a loose ball and called timeout, then drilled a 20-footer to keep the lead at 69-63 with 3:38 to play. After a basket by Billups, Duncan again burned a double-team with a pass to Ginobili for a 3-pointer.

"I think it was in that moment that we started changing the game and feeling more confident," Ginobili said.

"A lot of the shots they made, open shots, came as a result of us having a hard time guarding him," Brown said. "That's why he's such a great player."

The Pistons kept coming as a free throw and hoop by Billups made it 72-68 with 1:20 left. Duncan stalled the charge with a free throw, and Bowen stopped it cold by blocking Billups' 3-pointer. Ginobili sealed it with a layup at the other end.

"Once he went up in the air and I saw he was committed, it was a chance for me to react," Bowen said.

The Spurs shot better, held a 38-34 advantage on the glass and weathered 13 turnovers, which had a been a problem throughout the series. Parker scored eight points.

Richard Hamilton scored 15 points on just 6-of-18 shooting for the Pistons. Teammate Ben Wallace was unrelenting with 12 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

With the game on the verge of getting away from the Spurs in the third quarter, Duncan reeled it back in with 12 points in the last six-plus minutes, decimating Detroit's foul-depleted defense.

He powered for a pair of three-point plays and sank a pair of bankers as San Antonio turned a nine-point deficit into a 57-55 lead.

"There was a point there I got on a roll for a little while," Duncan said. "My shot felt good and things started going down for me and I just tried to be aggressive."

As expected with two defensive-minded teams in a winner-take-all game, it was the lowest-scoring first half in Finals Game 7 history.

Parker took a brief early seat with jitters leading to overpenetration and the Pistons grabbed a 12-6 lead. However, they also showed some nerves by missing six straight shots while the Spurs ran off 10 consecutive points, six by Horry.

The entire second quarter was a one-possession game, with both teams scoreless for a stretch of over three minutes. After Rasheed Wallace sat down with his third foul at the 5:21 mark, Ben Wallace had dunks on three straight possessions to help Detroit seize a 39-38 halftime lead.

Rasheed Wallace sat again with his fourth foul in the first minute of the third quarter. Undaunted, the Pistons rattled off nine points in a row, taking their largest lead at 48-39 on a spinning banker by Antonio McDyess, who came on for Rasheed Wallace.

"Rasheed was strapped all game," Brown said. "If you don't have your big people with the ability to play aggressively on Duncan, you've got no shot."