D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images
Parker was 8-of-8 from the line in Game 2.
SAN ANTONIO, April 25 (AP)-- Manu Ginobili knew Game 2 would have to be different after the San Antonio Spurs' top three scorers delivered less-than-stellar performances in the opening-game loss to the Denver Nuggets.
He was right and the Spurs won 97-88 on Wednesday night to even the first-round series.
"A sense of urgency is what kept us matching that aggressiveness,'' Ginobili said. "Today we were much more aggressive. We fight for loose balls and boards and that's what we've got to do every single game.''
It almost wasn't enough as the Nuggets cut a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit to three points with 45 seconds to play.
But Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, who all struggled offensively in Game 1, were able to help the Spurs hold off the sixth-seeded Nuggets, who were looking to return home with a second road win.
Ginobili scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half in Game 2.
"You had two basketball teams knocking it out and we were able to get the lead and hang on,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We were able to hang on more than anything.''
Duncan led San Antonio with 22 points and five blocked shots. Parker had 20 points and Michael Finley added 14.
"I feel good about our situation,'' said Denver's Allen Iverson, who had 20 points. "I feel good about being down the way we were tonight and fighting back. That showed them a lot and it showed us a lot.''
"Tonight we showed that we're going to fight,'' Anthony said. "Whether we're down 50 or we're down two, we're going to fight you until the last whistle blows.''
The Nuggets got within 91-88 on a 3-pointer by Iverson with 45 seconds to play, but Duncan's jump shot and two free throws each by Finley and Parker put the Spurs on even footing with Denver.
"We knew they were going to come in with the mind-set that they let one slip away, or that they gave one away and that they were going to come back and fight,'' Anthony said. "They did what they had to do. They took care of their home court and now they have to go on the road.''
Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Saturday in Denver.
The Nuggets trailed 74-60 after three quarters. They were down 82-65, but a 16-5 run capped by Iverson's 3-pointer brought Denver within 87-81 with 3:23 left. It was the closest they had been since 7:11 was left in the first half.
Nene's dunk with 1:12 left made it 89-85. Ginobili scored for the Spurs, but Iverson's second 3 of the quarter made it 91-88. Duncan's jump shot with 27 seconds to go put the Spurs up 93-88.
Finley hit two free throws after being fouled by Iverson with 16.5 seconds left and Parker added two more with 9.9 seconds left.
"We had a chance to win this game, another one on their court,'' Iverson said. "We had all the opportunity in the world. We started off so slow and we just couldn't recover the way we wanted to.''
The Spurs took the lead for good at 11-10 on a layup by Duncan with 5:42 left in the first quarter. They led 49-41 at halftime.
Camby was aggressive off the boards, getting 11 rebounds in the first half. Nene had one rebound at the half and two at the end of three quarters. He finished with seven.
Fabricio Oberto grabbed 10 boards for the Spurs.
Iverson and Anthony combined for 61 points in Game 1 and 46 points on Wednesday.
With more than two minutes to play in the third quarter, Robert Horry blocked Iverson's shot on the break and Ginobili converted for just his second field goal of the game to give San Antonio a 67-55 lead.
It was Anthony's 11 points in the third quarter that kept the Nuggets within 14 heading into the final period.
Notes: Wednesday was Duncan's 31st birthday. ... Iverson, who is from Virginia, continued to wear a Virginia Tech patch on his right sleeve in honor of the shootings there last week. ... After heading to the line just 10 times Sunday, San Antonio hit 21 of 23 free throws Wednesday. ... The Spurs' bench, led by Ginobili, scored 30 points to seven for the Nuggets' reserves.