SAN ANTONIO, May 4 (Ticker) -- Manu Ginobili
's move to the bench has
the San Antonio Spurs again moving on to the Western Conference
Ginobili led a huge bench effort with 18 points as the Spurs
pulled away in the second half for a 99-89 victory over the
Denver Nuggets that wrapped up their first-round series in five
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The second-seeded Spurs won the last four games of the series
and advanced to the conference semifinals for the fifth straight
year and eighth time in nine years. They will meet the
third-seeded Seattle SuperSonics beginning this weekend.
After losing the opener at home, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
the unorthodox move of moving Ginobili - an All-Star guard - to
the bench and starting Brent Barry
. It turned out to be a
stroke of genius as the hyperactive Ginobili averaged 22.8
points over the last four games.
"I really don't know if it was the lineup," Ginobili said. "What
I know is that our approach was different. The way we
executed, we attacked them, we played smarter. Maybe the lineup
change helped, but overall it was the team approach."
Ginobili seemed to energize the entire team and this game was no
exception. Reserves Robert Horry
and Glenn Robinson
their play and were in the middle of the decisive run in the
Horry, who has five championship rings, scored 17 points.
Robinson, a former All-Star who was traded and waived earlier
this season, added seven. They helped the Spurs hold a 42-14
bulge in bench points and a 9-1 advantage in 3-pointers.
"You can't win without a bench and I thought tonight Robert and
Glenn were really good off of the bench," Popovich said. "They hit some shots and played some 'D,' which
I know surprises some people. They did a good job. Other games
it has been Beno (Udrih) or (Brent) Barry or somebody giving us
scored 21 points, Tim Duncan
added 18 and 11
rebounds and Nazr Mohammed
10 and 13 for the Spurs, who held a
45-35 advantage on the glass.
scored 25 points for the seventh-seeded Nuggets,
who exited in five games in the first round for the second
straight year. Under coach George Karl
, Denver closed the
regular season 32-8, never losing more than two in a row - until
"We played a great team," Karl said. "We shook them in game
one, but then they shook off the rust and got better after that.
We had two games in Denver which were crucial to us, and we
didn't get either one of them."
"They are a very good team," Duncan said of the Nuggets. "They
have great parts. With George Karl coaching them an entire
season, they will be a heck of a team for a lot of years."
Coming off two disheartening losses on their home floor, the
Nuggets played spirited basketball. Neither team led by more
than five points until late in the third quarter, when Robinson
and Horry each made two free throws and Horry drilled a
3-pointer for a 71-65 lead.
A basket by Earl Boykins
pulled the Nuggets within 73-69 early
in the final period, but they got no closer. Robinson sank a
jumper and 3-pointer around a basket by Anthony for an 80-72
advantage with 7:36 left.
Parker's hoop gave the Spurs their largest lead at 85-73 with
3:32 to go. Ginobili made 6-of-6 free throws in the final
minute to hold off a desperation charge by the Nuggets.
"We left it out there tonight," Anthony said. "We have no
reason to hang our heads. It's a beginning for us."