|Duncan, the Spurs' leader, gets fourth championship|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 14 June 2007 23:20|
``We're sticklers,'' said San Antonio's Duncan, who won his fourth championship with the Spurs on Thursday night but had a mediocre game. ``That's probably bad. We should appreciate and enjoy the win. To end the season 4-of-15 (from the field) and 4-of-10 (from the foul line) is disappointing.
``In this situation it shouldn't be, but I think we're all competitors, and it defines us as competitors.''
But the broad smile plastered across Duncan's face revealed at least some satisfaction over the Spurs' sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
``They fought, they hit the offensive glass, they did everything they could but we sustained,'' Duncan said. ``They made runs, we never panicked. I think it just shows a lot of the experience, the poise that we've built over the years, and I think we just outlasted them.''
Duncan, the stoic and selfless foundation of the team, finally let his emotions run free after the win. He jumped up and down, caught teammate Bruce Bowen for a bear hug, and held his arms above his head as a champion once again.
Duncan has led the Spurs with discipline, dedication and diligence.
``It never gets old, it never gets old. Unbelievable,'' he said. ``Such a great run, a great journey, a great bunch of guys, it's unbelievable.''
But in Game 4, at least, the Big Fundamental had quite a bit of help. Duncan wasn't as prolific offensively as usual, finishing with 12 points and 15 rebounds in the Spurs' 83-82 victory.
``You know, it was a tough close-out,'' Duncan said. ``It would have been sweet either way, but it made it sweeter for them to make a run, for us to answer, for us to keep our composure and to find a way to win, no matter what.''
Instead of Duncan, it was the team's second- and third-leading scorers, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who bumped up the score for San Antonio.
Parker had 24 points and was selected finals MVP, an award Duncan won after the Spurs' titles in 1999, 2003 and 2005.
``He carried the team and I'm just happy he was on my team,'' Duncan said.
Parker gave Duncan - now in his 10th year in the league, all with the Spurs - and coach Gregg Popovich credit, too.
``It starts with Pop, the fact that he never let us, you know, get comfortable,'' Parker said. ``Every day in practice you just get that mentality. And then Timmy is the same way, he comes to practice and practices hard every day. When your superstar practices like that, you have to practice hard.''
The Spurs completed their first finals sweep. They are 16-6 (72 percent) all-time in the finals, the best winning percentage in the championship series history.
``We knew today that we had a great opportunity, that if we kept the game close around to the fourth quarter, we were going to have a great chance,'' said Ginobili, who led the Spurs with 27 points, 13 in the fourth quarter.
The Spurs winning without much offensive help from Duncan shows that the team is more balanced than ever, even though Duncan remains San Antonio's base.
``Tim is the common denominator,'' Popovich said before Game 4. ``It doesn't matter what year he's been in or what championship year. He's got a different cast around him from '99, '03 and '05.
``He's welcomed them all, he's found a way to help them all fit, feel comfortable in their roles, and not many players can do that.''
Duncan, the team's leading scorer averaging 22.7 points per game in the playoffs going into Game 4, was largely absent offensively on Thursday.
``I didn't play the greatest, people missed shots, they got offensive rebounds, they made plays,'' Duncan said. ``But we found a way to win. That's what this team is all about.''