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Friday, June 24, 2005

The Big Fundamental Comes Through in the Clutch

Tim Duncan, nicknamed "The Big Fundamental" by Shaquille O'Neal, joined an elite group--Michael Jordan (six), Magic Johnson (three) and O'Neal (three)-- by capturing his third NBA Finals MVP award after the Spurs defeated the Detroit Pistons 81-74 (the Finals MVP was first handed out in 1969, otherwise 11-time champion Bill Russell and recently deceased five-time champion George Mikan would undoubtedly be on this list as well). Duncan scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and was particularly dominant in the second half, producing 17 of the Spurs' 43 second half points. Detroit had a 48-39 lead midway through the third quarter but struggled mightily to make shots after that point and the Spurs outscored the Pistons 42-23 the rest of the way. Detroit point guard Chauncey Billups, who probably would have won the Finals MVP if the Pistons repeated as champions, had a quiet game, shooting 3-8 from the field and finishing with only 13 points. Manu Ginobili had an outstanding game--23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and several key plays down the stretch--but the focal point of the game--and series--without question was Duncan. He actually struggled from the field, shooting only 10-27, and he had a team-high 5 turnovers but none of that will be remembered, nor will any criticisms of his play that were uttered in the past two weeks. Winning wipes all of that away, because when people look back at this series and his career what will stand out is that his team won and he produced when it mattered most. Who remembers that before Johnny Most famously declared "Havlicek stole the ball!" Bill Russell--the greatest winner in the history of North American team sports--threw an inbounds pass off of a guide wire behind the backboard, a turnover that could have cost Boston the series? Boston won that game and went on to win the championship and Russell's gaffe is a footnote instead of a headline; the same will be true of Duncan's missed free throws and any other real or imagined shortcomings in his play during this series.

With three championships, three Finals MVPs, two regular season MVPs and eight All-NBA First Team selections in his first eight seasons, Tim Duncan has built a resume that matches up with the greatest players of all-time and he has a strong claim to being the greatest power forward in the history of the game.

Congratulations to Tim Duncan and the Spurs for a gritty game seven effort--and to the Pistons for an impressive, inspired title defense that came up just a few baskets short of success.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:10 AM

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