Spurs in a blur

Times Staff Writer

Another heartbreak by the lake, not that the San Antonio Spurs minded at all.

As one city groaned, seemingly resigned to its fate as a habitual non-champion in the sports world, another city popped into celebration mode, again, 1,500 miles away.

The Spurs won their fourth NBA championship in nine seasons, untangling themselves from the Cleveland Cavaliers long enough for an 83-82 victory Thursday in Game 4 of the Finals at Quicken Loans Arena.

The series was drab, it was dreary, and that doesn't even begin to describe the sadness in the air as Cavaliers fans filed out onto Huron Road.

Spurs guard Tony Parker was the difference-maker, taking home the Finals MVP presumably because he was one of only three Spurs to average more than six points a game, including a deal-sealing 24 points on 10-for-14 shooting in Game 4.

While the Spurs get to plan a victory parade, the NBA and ABC get to brace for the final TV ratings, which are expected to be dismal.

It didn't help that this was only the third Finals sweep in the last 17 years. Nor was it overly interesting to America that LeBron James struggled, averaging 22 points while shooting a woeful 35.6% and committing 5.8 turnovers a game.

Meanwhile, the Spurs are obviously on to something, and they might be here for a while. Parker is only 25 years old, Manu Ginobili is 29 and Tim Duncan is still playing well at 31.

The wild, wild Western Conference stands in their way of a repeat championship effort, but the Spurs don't have to worry about that for many more months.

"I'm not complaining," Parker said. "I will definitely remember 2007."

They didn't want to hear much about being the next dynasty, despite David Stern's proclamation that they had entered the "Pantheon of great teams in NBA history" before the commissioner handed them the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, more curmudgeon than campaigner after the Spurs took a 3-0 series lead, killed all the dynasty talk before Game 4 was even played, calling it "psycho babble."

"When I think of dynasties, two come to my mind real quick -- UCLA and Bill Russell," he said. "Everything else is just talk after that."

Cleveland would love to just win something.

Fans here have seen this before, one way or another. Not since the pre-Super Bowl days of 1964 have the weary by Lake Erie witnessed a title won by Cleveland's major sports teams. The Browns broke hearts with "The Fumble" and "The Drive," and Michael Jordan crushed the Cavaliers by nailing his now-immortalized shot over Craig Ehlo.

That this was the Cavaliers' first venture into the Finals in their 37-year existence whipped their fans into a frenzy, but the Cavaliers' offense never got on track in the series, averaging only 80.5 points.

James, only 22 years old, showed the humility of a veteran in defeat.

"I've got a lot of things to work on to get better for next year," he said. "Once I get better, our team will automatically get better, and I know that."

Even though no NBA team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, the Cavaliers provided a sliver of possibility toward winning Game 4 by taking a 63-60 lead with 6:54 to play.

Then Ginobili scored 13 of his game-high 27 points and the Spurs held on for the victory. All that was left was for Eva Longoria to wipe away tears, which she did after her fiance was selected the MVP.

The big news in the first half was that somebody almost scored more than 40 points.

San Antonio took a 39-34 halftime lead in a predictably slow and stingy game, nether team able to distinguish itself from the other while giving credence to Stern's analysis in USA Today that the style of play in these Finals had been, well, "inelegant."

But the Spurs persevered, Parker became the first European player to win a Finals MVP, and Robert Horry will be fitted for his seventh championship ring.

Lost and almost forgotten was Duncan, who averaged 18.3 points and 11.5 rebounds in becoming the only player on all four Spurs championship teams.

"Watching Tim Duncan be a common thread through it all is especially satisfying and amazing to me," Popovich said. "Sometimes he's the best player, sometimes he's not. But he's the common denominator for the whole group."




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Swept aside

Teams have been swept in the NBA Finals eight times (each series was best of seven):

* 2006-07: San Antonio def. Cleveland

* 2001-02: Lakers def. New Jersey

* 1994-95: Houston def. Orlando

* 1988-89: Detroit def. Lakers

* 1982-83: Philadelphia def. Lakers

* 1974-75: Golden State def. Wash. Bullets

* 1970-71: Milwaukee def. Baltimore Bullets

* 1958-59: Boston def. Minneapolis Lakers

Source: Associated Press

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