Spurs edge Cavs to win NBA crown

Cleveland, June 15:

San Antonio’s fourth National Basketball Association (NBA) title in nine seasons was the best of them all because the Spurs were finally forced to fight back to complete a sweep of Cleveland.

Manu Ginobili scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, including six tension-packed free throws in the last 24 seconds, and the Spurs edged the Cavaliers 83-82 on Thursday night to win the best-of-seven NBA Finals in four games.

The Spurs also took titles in 1999, 2003 and 2005 with forward Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich having been a part of every championship run. “It was great, probably the best one,” Duncan said. “The road we took to get here was as tough as we ever had it.”

French guard Tony Parker, the first European to be named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, had 24 points and Duncan added 12 points and 15 rebounds.

With the game deadlocked at 66-66, Ginobili hit a 3-pointer with 4:10 to play and Argentine compatriot Fabricio Oberto followed with a 3-point play and an inside basket to give the Spurs a 74-66 edge with 2:00 to play.

A 3-pointer by Cleveland’s Damon Jones trimmed San Antonio’s lead to 79-76 with 7.5 seconds to play but Ginobili sank two free throws to boost the bulge.

LeBron James, who led the Cavaliers with 24 points despite shooting only 10-of-30, sank a 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 81-79 but again Ginobili answered with two free throws.

Jones sank a 3-pointer at the final buzzer but that only made the final margin smaller and the Spurs’ victory celebration no easier to accept.

Parker averaged 24.5 points a game in the Finals to claim the MVP award which Duncan had won in the Spurs’ three prior title runs. Duncan had 18.3 points and 11.5 rebounds a game but Parker was clearly the star playmaker.

The Cavaliers, in their first NBA Finals, were the eighth team in NBA history to be swept in the final, the first since the Los Angeles Lakers blanked New Jersey in 2002.

Duncan scored with 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give the Spurs a 60-49 edge but San Antonio did not score again for 7:28. Cleveland scored 14 consecutive points after Duncan’s basket, setting the stage for the final drama.

The Cavaliers had 322 points in four games, the fewest total of any team in NBA Finals history, the old mark being 376 by Baltimore in 1971 when swept by Milwaukee.