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4-gone conclusion: Spurs win third title in five years

SHARE 4-gone conclusion: Spurs win third title in five years

CLEVELAND — True roundball royalty, the San Antonio Spurs are once again wearing the crown.

LeBron James, Cleveland's preordained king, isn't quite ready for his.

MVP Tony Parker scored 24 points, Manu Ginobili had 27 — 13 in the fourth quarter — and the Spurs moved in among the NBA's greatest franchises with an 83-82 victory Thursday night for a sweep of the Cavaliers — court jesters through much of their first finals.

With their fourth championship since 1999 — and third in five years — the Spurs joined the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls as the only teams in NBA history to win four titles.

"It never gets old, it never gets old," Tim Duncan said. "Unbelievable. Such a great run, a great journey, a great bunch of guys."

And No. 5 might not be far away either with Parker, Ginobili and Duncan leading this Texas-oiled machine. Coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, now a perfect 4-for-4 together in finals appearances, spent most of the postseason dismissing talk that they should be considered a dynasty.

But with titles in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007, there's no more reason to pretend they aren't one.

As the final seconds ticked off on Cleveland's finest season, Duncan stood at center court with both arms raised triumphantly as the rest of the Spurs danced around their center in a huddle. San Antonio's star sought out Cleveland's Eric Snow, but was unable to find James in the pandemonium.

Moments later, the Spurs, who moved over from the ABA in 1976, put on champions baseball caps, which has almost become a June ritual for them.

Their road to a championship was bumpier than in previous years.

The Spurs weren't the Spurs earlier this season, and Popovich, ever the task master, criticized his squad, calling it the worst defensive one he had coached. San Antonio was 33-18 at the time, "struggling" for by its lofty standards, but it wasn't long before they started playing Spurs basketball.

They beat Denver, Phoenix and Utah to win the Western Conference title and then stormed through the Cavs, who were exposed during four games that looked competitive on the scoreboard but were hardly even close.

"This one's sweeter," Duncan said. "The road that we took to get here was as tough as we ever had it. Guys persevered, we had great performances from one to 12."

The final moments were hectic as the Spurs needed every last free throw to hold off the Cavaliers, who made a last stand at home in a season of seasons for their once downtrodden franchise.

Cleveland went on an 11-0 run to open the fourth quarter, taking its first lead in any second half of the series on James' drive with 7:55 left. Cleveland went up 63-60 on Daniel Gibson's drive, but that's when Duncan and Co. showed why they're champions.

Ginobili scored inside, was fouled and missed his free throw. But Duncan muscled into the lane and tipped in the miss to make it 66-63. The Cavs tied it, but Ginobili, who didn't make a field goal in Game 3, dropped a 3-pointer, and when James missed a 3, the Spurs regained control by outworking Cleveland.

Duncan and Fabricio Oberto scrapped for offensive rebounds as the Spurs kept the ball for nearly two minutes before Oberto's three-point play made it 72-66 with 2:29 remaining. Duncan then poked the ball away from James and Oberto scored underneath to give San Antonio a 74-66 lead.

James, possibly a little tired following the early morning birth of his second son, hit another 3-pointer but Ginobili responded again with a tough runner in the lane to make it 76-69.

Damon Jones made three free throws and James made another 3-pointer, but Ginobili made four free throws in the final seven seconds and immediately began celebrating a title that was all but inevitable.

San Antonio's four-game sweep was the eighth since the finals began in 1947.

The 25-year-old Parker, who was a sliver-and-black blur that averaged 24.5 points on 57 percent shooting, became the first European-born player to be honored as MVP. Until now, he was mostly viewed as a pretty decent player with a prettier fiance, TV actress Eva Longoria.

When Parker was handed his trophy, his soon-to-be-bride wiped away tears.