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Michael Finley scored 21 points to lead the Spurs past the Nuggets, 102-91.
Spurs 102, Nuggets 91 (F)
SAN ANTONIO, Dec. 15 (AP) -- With one of the San Antonio Spurs' stars out and another just returning from a four-game absence, the team's supporting cast became the guardian of the only perfect home record in the Western Conference on Saturday night.
"Their role players beat us as much as anyone else,'' said Karl. "From (Brent) Barry to Finley to Oberto, they beat us as much as (Manu) Ginobili or (Tim) Duncan did.''
The Nuggets were without starter Kenyon Martin, who was suspended for one game after he was assessed a flagrant foul in the Nuggets' win Wednesday over New Orleans.
Oberto, who was 10-of-11 from the field, also had 13 rebounds for the Spurs.
"He had a great game, He usually doesn't go for numbers like that,'' said Marcus Camby, who had just four points and six rebounds for Denver. "We were so small with K-Mart being suspended, he (Oberto) was being played by a 6-7, 6-8 guy most of the night.''
The Spurs, who had lost two in a row, saw the return of Duncan, who missed four games with a sprained right ankle.
"It was great to have him back,'' said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "Just having him on the court is a confidence builder for everybody.''
Duncan, who had eight points in his return, said he wasn't yet 100 percent, but pretty close.''
But Tony Parker sat out his second straight game for the Spurs with a sprained left ankle.
The Nuggets were up by nine early, but started to lose their offensive rhythm in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Spurs were moving the ball and finding open shots.
"We were in the basketball game,'' said Iverson, who said Martin's absence was a huge factor. "So we had our opportunities. But it just fell apart.''
Denver, down by double digits for most of the second half, almost got within single digits in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets went on a 19-6 run, and a turnover by Ginobili led to a 3-point play by Iverson that brought the Nuggets within 11 with 4:17 to play.
Denver got within 11 again, 100-89, when Anthony, on a fast break, tossed the ball over his shoulder on a no-look pass to Kleiza, who dunked. The Nuggets got within 11 once more, with 40 seconds to play, but it was too late to make a difference.
"I didn't know what the night had in store for me,'' Finley said. "But the coaches and my teammates always tell me, 'Remain confident and shoot it when you have it.' That's what I did.''
Anthony Carter scored 10 points for the Nuggets.
Denver went up 27-22 after one quarter as the Spurs couldn't get their rhythm on the court and missed 12 of 21 shots.
But the Spurs took advantage of seven second-quarter turnovers by Denver, and Oberto and Finley each contributed eight points to a 16-7 San Antonio burst that gave the Spurs a 54-48 lead with 1:08 to go in the half. Finley hit a bank jumper and followed with a 3 from the corner 23 seconds later after Bruce Bowen snagged the ball from Carter.
Finley's bank shot turned out to be the go-ahead basket for the Spurs - it put them up 46-45 with 3:13 left in the half. The Spurs were ahead 56-50 at the break.
In the third it was the Nuggets who had trouble from the field, missing 11 of 19 shots. The Spurs scored twice as many points as Denver in the quarter, getting their biggest lead of the game to that point, 92-68, heading into the final period.
Finley and Oberto had continued success and Ginobili also got into the action, scoring all 11 of his points in the third quarter. And when Ginobili missed a jumper, it was Finley who got the rebound and tipped it in for a 15-point lead with 3:50 on the clock.
Notes: The Nuggets met the Spurs in the first round of last season's playoffs. Denver won the first game, but San Antonio took the next four to move on. ... With less than a minute to play, Spurs C Francisco Elson appeared to roll his right ankle. He limped off the floor unassisted. The Spurs said he sprained his right ankle and will be on day-to-day status. ... The Spurs were 11-of-22 from 3-point range. Finley hit 4-of-5. ... The Nuggets outran the Spurs, finishing with a 25-5 advantage on fast-break points. ... The Boston Celtics (12-0) are the only other team in the NBA with a perfect home record.