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San Antonio wins fourth NBA crown

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By Krista Jahnke

Detroit Free Press

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Nothing pretty about it, but the Spurs, the now-undisputed greatest team of their generation, will take it.

After a season dogged with trade rumors early, the Spurs won their fourth NBA title in nine years with an 83-82 Game 4 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

"This one is sweeter," Tim Duncan said. "The road that we took to get here was as tough as we’ve ever had it."

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In what was billed as LeBron James’ coronation series, the man who disposed of the Pistons faded from the Finals with only a newborn son to look back on fondly.

James’ girlfriend gave birth to the couple’s second son — Bryce Maximus James — at 12:51 a.m. on Thursday. But a day that started with joy ended sourly as James scored 24 points but shot 10-for-30. He had six turnovers.

The Cavs became the second team to be swept in the Finals in the last 12 years; the other came in 2002, when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Nets in four.

The Spurs won despite a dreadful offensive night from their rock, Duncan, who shot 4-for-15 and finished with 12 points and six turnovers.

Duncan did his part with 15 rebounds and his usual lock-’em-down defense.

And he was more than happy to let his feisty French sidekick get the glory . Point guard Tony Parker, who finished a superb series with a 24-point, 10-for-14 shooting finale, became the first French-born player to win the Finals MVP award. He accepted the trophy with a French flag tied around his waist and his superstar fiancee, Eva Longoria, snapping photos as she wiped away tears.

"He was unbelievable," three-time MVP winner Duncan said of Parker, who averaged 57 percent shooting in the Finals. "I had no chance. He carried the team."

Backup slasher Manu Ginobili scored 27 off the bench, including most of the key baskets down the stretch when the Cavaliers made a furious final comeback.

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Before the fourth quarter, the Cavs showed few signs they deserved their spot in the Finals . They led by one point after the first quarter, then let that slim edge disappear in a 14-point second quarter.

As the Spurs went up by 11 in the third quarter, the crew holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy backstage likely started to shine it up.

But the Cavs scored 11 straight points to open the fourth quarter, and suddenly they led, 63-60. For a moment, the Spurs looked like the jittery team, forcing shots and botching plays. All those years of late-season play, though, showed in the final minutes. The Spurs, poundifg the boards, took back control with a 14-3 run. Their six offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, including three from Duncan, led to seven second-chance points.

The Spurs’ lead grew to eight, and when James made a three to get it to five with about two minutes left, it seemed King James’ first Finals were kaput.

Not quite yet. Ginobili, who scored 13 in the fourth quarter, fouled Damon Jones with 7.5 seconds left as the Cavs guard attempted a three-pointer. The former Piston made all three shots to make it 79-76.

Ginobili made two free throws with seven seconds left, then James sank a three-pointer to cut it to two. With 1.9 seconds left, Ginobili made two final free throws, and the Cavaliers ran out of time. Jones’ three at the buzzer was simply cosmetic.

The Spurs became the first franchise to win at least four championships with one star since the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls won six. San Antonio also won in 2005, 2003 and 1999.

Several players — including veteran Michael Finley — won a championship for the first time. He said afterward he wanted to sleep with the Larry O’Brien Trophy between himself and his wife. Spurs forward Robert Horry won his seventh ring.

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"Only one team is going to finish with a smile," Ginobili said. "It wasn’t our turn last year. . . . That’s why we smile now. We know you’re not going to win every year."

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