In the end, it was a four-gone conclusion. The Spurs got their fourth NBA title in nine years. LeBron James got a four-game sweep. That, in a nutshell, sums up the 2007 NBA Finals.Led by Finals MVP Tony Parker, the Spurs held off the Cavs 83-82 in Thursday night's Game 4 to silence a raucous Cleveland crowd and solidify their status as one of the NBA's all-time dynasties.Once again San Antonio's defense was the story. Shaded by Bruce Bowen and the Spurs team defense, LeBron struggled with just 24 points on 10-of-30 shooting. Meanwhile, the Cavs superstar got little help from his supporting cast as the Cavs shot just 38.1 percent (32-of-84). For James it was a disappointing end to his much-ballyhooed first Finals appearance. But the 22-year-old phenom could take comfort in the fact this young team had made it to the championship round for the first time in the franchise's 37-year history. He also knew he had lost out to a worthy champion in the Spurs."We went up against a better team," James said. "They never got rattled when we made runs. They never sped up. They played their own tempo, and that kept us off balance. I think we learned that as good as we thought we were, there was still a team out there that was better than us."San Antonio now joins the likes of the Showtime Lakers, Bird's Celtics and Jordan's Bulls on the list of recent NBA dynasties. They might not be quite in that class yet, but then again they might not be done winning titles.
Finals MVP dazzled with 24 points over first three quarters to stake his team to 60-52 lead, then stepped aside to let Duncan and Ginobili do their thing. His incredible twisting layup late in first quarter left vapor trail on Daniel Gibson and will go down as signature play of Finals.
Classy vet rattled home a jumper to put Spurs on the board at 2-2 and sank a free throw late to put them up 79-73. Gave way to Ginobili in between, but after 12 years of waiting for that ring he surely doesn't mind.
On a night when his shot wasn't falling, the team-first superstar did everything else. Dominated the boards, shut down the rim and joined with Ginobili to lead the fourth-quarter charge that sealed the title.
Long-haired Argentinian gave his usual blue-collar effort and was fab down the stretch, scoring two huge buckets and keeping alive a key possession late. Now has NBA ring to go with his world championship and Olympic gold.
They outscored their counterparts 34-26 and outrebounded them 11-9. Manu Ginobili joined with Duncan in taking over the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his game-high 27 points -- including six clutch foul shots in the final minutes to ice the game. Francisco Elson (four points), Robert Horry (three boards) and Jacque Vaughn (two points, one drawn charge on LeBron) also contributed.
Gregg Popovich, Coach
Had his team ready for tough close-out situation, helped keep them calm during late Cavs run and used his timeouts to keep crowd out of game. Another bullet-proof job as he became fifth coach in history to win four titles.
Fourth-year pro buried his first shot, a three in the corner, to stake Cavs to 5-2 lead and then disappeared. Missed his next five shots and grabbed just one rebound in three quarters before getting hook.
For the second straight game the 7-foot-3 veteran was all over the boards, racking up team-high 13 (five on offense). But couldn't get it going offensively and, like Gooden, was on the bench during late Cleveland surge.
Weakened again by the absence of Hughes (foot), they just didn't have enough firepower to match Spurs. Still, Anderson Varejao (eight points, three boards), Donyell Marshall (five points, four boards) and Damon Jones (nine points) joined with 'Bron and Gibson to spark 11-0 Cavs run to start fourth that made it interesting.
Mike Brown, Coach
Kept his team battling despite falling behind, and his bold decision to go to bench paid off early in the fourth. But did he stick with that unit too long?
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Remember that poster of LeBron dunking over Tim Duncan that was hanging in James' locker during the Pistons series? It was taped over the doorway to the trainer's room before Game 4. ... Once again the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena was a sea of blinking red, as the 20,562 fans were given T-shirts and strobe lights. They were loud early and late, but sagged in the middle as the Spurs methodically took control. ... Among the celebs in attendance were Usher, Drew Carey, Franco Harris, Terrell Owens and Eva Longoria. Minutes after the final horn Longoria ran on the floor and jumped into the arms of fiancee Tony Parker. ... Parker, by the way, has a new rap CD, half in French, just released in San Antonio. "I'm doing it for fun, so if people can enjoy it, it's even better," he said. "Hopefully it will teach them French along the way." His Finals MVP award certainly won't hurt sales.
Quote Of The Night
"We have to get better. Me, as an individual, I have to be much better on and off the court. And that will carry our team to higher levels. I think it starts with me first and then it will trickle down to everybody else."
- LeBron James, on what was the biggest thing he'd take away from his first Finals experience.
For the Spurs, it's a victory celebration along the River Walk. For the Cavs, it's a chance to reflect on a surprisingly successful season and what they can do to get to the next level. Cleveland clearly needs to get LeBron a consistent second banana to help lighten his load. But since the Cavs have no room under the salary cap, it's likely going to require improvement from within. San Antonio, meanwhile, has all its key players signed through at least next season. In other words, the Spurs could well be back again in '08 to build on their dynasty.