Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs have dethroned the Detroit Pistons as NBA champions.

Duncan captured his third career NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award, as the Spurs snapped Detroit's one-year reign with an 81-74 triumph in Thursday's decisive Game 7 in San Antonio.

The Spurs have now won three titles over the past seven basketball seasons. The franchise was also victorious in 1999 and 2003.

"This [MVP] trophy is definitely an honour, but there are so many MVPs on this team," said Duncan.

The six-foot-11-inch centre joined Michael Jordan, Earvin (Magic) Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal as the only players ever to win the NBA Finals MVP award three times.

Duncan was once again the Spurs' primary force in Thursday's do-or-die contest, leading all players with 25 points and 11 rebounds.

"Tim came out huge today. He was very focused this morning and he played like an MVP," said Spurs point guard Tony Parker.

Veteran forward Robert Horry, who now leads all active players with six NBA titles, added 15 points for San Antonio. Teammate Manu Ginobili also contributed 23 points.

The Pistons employed a balanced attack and had five players reach double digits, headed by Richard Hamilton's 15-point effort.

Detroit was trying to become the first team in NBA history to win Games 6 and 7 of NBA Finals on the road.

"It's tough and it always is, but somebody has to lose," said Detroit guard Chauncey Billups, who scored 13 points.

"Unfortunately, it was us this time. But I'm proud of what we did this evening, and I'm proud of the heart we showed."

It was a tightly-contested Game 7 befitting a winner-take-all showdown between the league's top two defences.

After grabbing a slim 39-38 edge at halftime, the Pistons scored nine straight points in the third quarter and forced San Antonio to miss seven straight shots en route to a nine-point lead.

But Duncan counted 12 points in the quarter to help the Spurs rally in the latter part of the frame and knot the game at 57-57 heading into the fourth.

The Spurs took control late in the final quarter when Duncan found a wide open Ginobili for a three-pointer, giving San Antonio a 72-65 advantage with 2:57 remaining.

The Pistons weren't able to hack into the Spurs' lead, notching an air ball, foul shot, and offensive foul over their next three possessions.

Ginobili then sealed the victory by weaving through a group of Detroit defenders for an uncontested layup to make it 75-68 Spurs.

With the win, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich became just the third coach in NBA history to win three league championships.

It was also the first title for the Spurs without former NBA star David Robinson, who retired after San Antonio beat the New Jersey Nets in the 2003 Finals.

with files from Canadian Press