Most Valuable Team

Most Valuable Team
By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports
June 24, 2005

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports
SAN ANTONIO – The fireworks sparked overhead, the music blared and the confetti fell on the court. Not on one player, not on one big, bright star deep in the heart of Texas, but on one team – one together, tenacious, total team.

In a star-driven league, it was a group of contributors who drove to the title. In a sport that celebrates the individual, it was a collection of individuals who celebrated last.

San Antonio Spurs 81, Detroit Pistons 74.

At long last it was over, the Spurs gritting out a NBA championship in seven gritty games.

"Perseverance," said Tim Duncan, the Finals MVP who finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds. "We just stuck with it. We just kept on pushing. We just kept on fighting."

Game 7 was a microcosm of this entire series – back and forth, forth and back. With every Spurs' run, the Pistons ran back. With every Detroit surge, San Antonio surged back. And mostly it was won by the Spurs because of big plays by multiple players, guys picking one another up when someone eventually fell down.

Duncan deserved to win MVP for his critic-answering play. But so did a handful of others in silver and black.

This was Bruce Bowen completely stuffing Chauncey Billups (3-of-8 shooting) the way he had stuffed Richard Hamilton earlier in the series.

This was Tony Parker stepping up defensively on Hamilton (6-of-18 shooting) allowing the Bowen switch on Billups to work.

This was Duncan shaking off a nightmare offensive start to the game and a growing sense of dread to explode in the third quarter (nine points in a 2:09 stretch).

This was Robert Horry delivering 15 momentum-swinging points, just the way he carried the Spurs to a Game 5 victory with a legendary performance.

This was Manu Ginobili slashing and dashing to the rim for 23 points, reminiscent of his play in staking the Spurs to a critical 2-0 series lead.

It was a group of guys up against summer, up against a classic collapse, up against the dangerous defending champions growing together and growing tougher when it mattered most.

"Kid in the candy store," cooed Bowen in celebration. "Party, party, candy. This is a beautiful moment."

Make no mistake, San Antonio was in trouble in this game. The Spurs trailed by nine points in the second half, and Duncan was doing plenty of little things but not the big one the Spurs needed most – scoring.

At one point, he was 4-of-14 from the floor and had gone scoreless for nearly 14 minutes – "I felt the game was going bad for me," Duncan said. But then his chief harassers, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess, both hit the bench with four fouls, and Duncan made an old-fashioned three-point play and everything changed.

"I got one to fall in and two to fall in and things started happening," Duncan said. "Then I was able to draw some double teams and got some guys some open shots.

"The whole game was about perseverance, sticking to it, keeping it going," he continued. "Things not going well? Don't really care and keep going."

That's the Spurs, though. They may not fit the NBA's classic star-gazing, high-entertainment act that the Nielsen people covet. They may come from a small market. But they now have captured three titles in seven years (two in the last three) and have a young core in place to be in contention for a long time.

"We can play better," Duncan said, "but we have years to do that."

Perhaps the greatest thing about the Spurs is that the MVP wasn't sure he deserved to be MVP and spent much of the postgame complimenting his teammates. In return, all of those guys praised Duncan.

"Timmy is the leader of our team. He just carried us tonight," Parker said.

But at times, the Spurs all did some carrying. And every bit of it was needed to drive a stake through the heart of the Pistons, who were the most resilient of champions. Detroit could have faded in these playoffs any number of times, but it took a tie game into the fourth quarter.

That's when San Antonio took control of the game, the series and the championship. Four different players scored, five different players grabbed rebounds and everyone kept feeding the white-hot Ginobili, who scored 11 points in the fourth and closed it out like a baseball reliever.

It wasn't just Tim Duncan. It wasn't just one player. It wasn't just one thing. It was a thing of beauty even the Pistons could appreciate.

"I recognize the fact that another team deserved it," Pistons coach Larry Brown said.

A team did.

The best team.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Friday, Jun 24, 2005 4:09 am, EDT

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