Friday , Jun , 24 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Duncan came through at the end

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

(Sports Network) – Tim Duncan earned his third NBA Finals MVP, as he led
San Antonio to an 81-74 victory over the Detroit Pistons at the SBC Center in
the decisive Game 7 of the finals. The Spurs captured their second
championship in three years and third (1999, 2003, 2005) in franchise history.

A two-time NBA MVP, Duncan, who played in the first Game 7 of his career,
scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 42 minutes of action
in Game 7’s victory. The Wake Forest product averaged 20.6 points and 14.1
boards per game in the championship round. He became the fourth player in
league history to win three NBA Finals MVPs, as he joined Michael Jordan
(6), Magic Johnson (3) and Shaquille O’Neal (3).

“I felt like the game was going bad for me, yeah, I did feel that,” said
Duncan after Game 7’s win. “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 will never even understand, and 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.

“Then I was able to draw some double teams and got some guys some open shots.
The whole game was about perseverance, sticking to it, keeping it going,
things not going well, don’t really care and keep on going.”

Duncan was just 10-of-27 from the floor in the clinching victory against
Detroit, and made 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. For the playoffs, the seven-
time All-Star averaged 23.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.26 blocks in 23
contests. He made 46.4 percent (197-for-425) of his attempts from the field
and played just under 38 minutes per game.

San Antonio’s head coach Gregg Popovich, who won his first Game 7 as a
general, became just the fifth coach in NBA history to win at least three NBA
titles. Popovich knows that the All-Star Duncan has mad his job a lot easier.

“Well, you know, when you call plays or do things on the court, it always
works better when he’s out there,” said Popovich after Game 7’s win. I do the
same things with someone else on the court, it doesn’t work. So obviously Tim
is a factor. He’s the reason things go. If he scores, that’s great. If he
doesn’t score, he’s spacing the floor, getting the ball to other people who do
score, and he’s always rebounding and playing D. So his complete game is so
sound, so fundamental, so unnoticed at times, because if he doesn’t score,
people think, well, he didn’t do anything. But he was incredible and he was
the force that got it done for us.”

The 29-year-old Duncan has cemented his place in history, but he had plenty of
help from his supporting cast. Fellow All-Star Manu Ginobili netted 23, pulled
down five boards and handed out four assists in Game 7’s win over the Pistons,
while the clutch Robert Horry, who earned his sixth championship ring, came
off the bench and scored 15 in 32 minutes of court time.

Ginobili had a very strong showing in the postseason. The 27-year-old guard,
who turns 28 on July 28th, averaged 20.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists
in San Antonio’s 23 playoff contests.

“Manu is unbelievable,” said Duncan. “You can say this about so many people,
and whether it be true or not, I think it’s absolutely true for him. I don’t
think we’ve even scratched the surface with him. He’s got so much to him. He
just plays with reckless abandon, he doesn’t care the time or the situation,
he doesn’t care if it’s a preseason game or it’s a Finals game. He plays the
same way. He’s going to continue to grow and we’re going to continue to grow
around him. We’re going to continue to understand what he wants to do and when
he wants to do it.

“He was so big for us, every game, in the fourth quarter, he was the guy that
took things or really made things happen, and to play besides someone like
that who can do that in that situation, it takes so much pressure off of
myself, off of Tony. It helps our team so much, and you can see it, and he
doesn’t care. He’s going to make the play. He’s going to make it happen, and
he got a lot well, he gave himself a lot of crap for the finish of Game 6 or
whatever, he thought he took some bad shots. He thought he would make some
plays down the stretch and make some shots. He got on himself about it more
than anybody else got on him and that’s what he’s going to do. We understand
it now and we love having him and we love we love what he does down the
stretch.”

Duncan did struggle at times in the playoffs and in the NBA Finals, but when
the Spurs needed him most he came through. The All-Star forward has many
productive years left in the league, and one can be sure that he will win more
championships and his legacy will continue to grow.

SAN