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Gallinari scores 28 as Nuggets hold off Spurs

By Aaron J. Lopez, Nuggets.com

Posted Dec. 19 2012 00:25PM

After playing 29 minutes while battling a winter cold, Kenneth Faried could manage only a raspy whisper in the Denver Nuggets locker room.

A booming voice was unnecessary. His team’s performance on the court spoke volumes.

Faried had 19 points and 11 rebounds and Danilo Gallinari scored a season-high 28 points to help the Nuggets hold off the San Antonio Spurs 112-106 Tuesday night at Pepsi Center.

“A grind, yes,” Faried said. “Top-to-bottom grind. I kept fighting, but it was so hard to produce like I could have. Looking at the numbers, everybody would say I did pretty good. Personally, I believe I can do even better if I was healthy.”

The Nuggets (14-12) won their third straight game and improved to 7-1 at home. They did it by pushing the pace throughout the first three quarters and staying poised when San Antonio made a run in the fourth.

The Spurs (19-8) lead the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring (27.5) and fourth-quarter field-goal percentage (.494), and their late-game execution was on display again against Denver.

Trailing by 15 to start the fourth, San Antonio used four 3-pointers from reserve guard Patty Mills to climb within five points midway through the period.

The Nuggets struggled at times early in the season to protect second-half leads, but they turned to Gallinari and Andre Miller for big plays in the final minutes Tuesday.

With his team clinging to a 105-102 lead, Gallinari hit his second 3-pointer of the fourth quarter and Miller followed with a mid-range jumper to push the advantage back to eight with 2:37 remaining. San Antonio never made it a one-possession game after that.

“With the team that we have, we could have a different protagonist every game,” Gallinari said. “Tonight it was me. Maybe the next night it will be somebody else, and that has to be our strength. I was really happy to knock those shots down and win the game.”

Rebounding, forcing turnovers and running the floor, the Nuggets took advantage of a San Antonio team playing 24 hours after a loss in Oklahoma City.

Denver held a 21-5 advantage in fast-break points late in the third quarter, prompting Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to employ a Hack-a-Vale strategy to slow the tempo. San Antonio fouled JaVale McGee on five of seven Denver possessions, and the Nuggets center converted 4-of-10 foul shots.

“We were running out of gas, running out of energy, so we figured if we could go up and down a few times and not have to play any defense, that might put some fuel back in the tank,” Popovich said.

Although the Nuggets maintained a double-digit lead through that stretch, they never got the running game cranked up again in the fourth quarter.

It still was enough to hold off a Spurs team that has an NBA-best 11 road wins.

“It was a great win,” Karl said. “I thought Gallo was great. I thought (Andre) Iguodala was good. Corey (Brewer) off the bench was good. Kosta Koufos gave us a good effort on (Tim) Duncan. Kenneth was really sick, but came out with a big number stat game.”

Koufos matched a career-high with 14 rebounds, but the biggest numbers belonged to the second-oldest guy on the court.

Duncan, 36, scored a season-high 31 points and added 18 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and two steals. He also eclipsed the 23,000-point mark for his career.

“He knows what he’s doing and he knows the game,” Faried said. “He finishes at the rim with ease. You barely see him jump off the ground and you wonder how he gets all these rebounds.”

The Nuggets still won the battle of the boards 58-45, and they played well defensively against San Antonio’s backcourt duo of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. The two combined for 29 points on 9-of-27 shooting.

Denver returns to action Thursday at Portland before returning home Saturday against the Charlotte Bobcats.

STAR OF THE GAME

Tim Duncan

Points 31, 11-25 FGs, 9-10 FTs
Rebounds 18, 4 OFF 14 DEF
Assists 6
Steals 2
Blocks 5
GAME LEADERS
Points Duncan 31, 11-25 FGs
Rebounds Duncan 18
Assists Andre Miller 7
Steals Tiago Splitter 3
Blocks Duncan 5
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari on Denver's balance:

"With the team that we have, we could have a different protagonist every game and that has to be our strength. Tonight it was me, maybe next night it will be somebody else and that has to be our strength. I was really happy to knock those shots down tonight and win the game."

KEY MOMENT

Gallinari and Miller stem the tide

After the Spurs cut a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to 3, Gallinari responded with a 3-pointer and Andre Miller hit a mid-range jumper to put Denver up eight with 2:37 remaining. The Spurs never got within one possession the rest of the way.

VIDEO RECAP

Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach George Karl

On the win:
“It was a great win. I thought Gallo [Danilo Gallinari] was great. I thought [Andre] Iguodala was good. Corey [Brewer] off the bench was good. Kosta [Koufos] gave us a good effort on [Tim] Duncan. Kenneth [Faried] was really sick, but came out with a big number stat game.” On what Gallo [Danilo Gallinari] was doing to be so affective:
“He got some match ups where his speed was affective. He got some one-on-one stuff. He got to the free throw line and made some threes. The pace of the game is more of like how I would like it to be. I think San Antonio averages 29 points in the fourth quarter, so we lost control of the tempo. But thank God we didn’t lose the game.”

On Gallo’s [Danilo Gallinari] big shots late in the game:
“Both threes were timely and positive. I thought Andre [Miller] made a big jump shot in that stretch. Defining our personality is going to be an interesting experience. Ty [Lawson] I thought was pretty good; he got by but couldn’t finish and turned it over a couple of times. We didn’t find [Andre] Iguodala in that stretch, but I think we’re going to do it by committee the rest of the year.”

On if he was surprised Gregg Popovich decided to foul JaVale McGee late in the game:
“I’ve seen him do it to other teams; I think he did it with the Lakers this year. We were playing so well at the time, that it was a momentum thing, than an advantage thing. We stopped the running and stopped getting into the open court.”

Nuggets center Kosta Koufos

On going up against a future Hall of Famer [Tim Duncan]:
“Tim Duncan is a great player and I have to give credit to my teammates who played really well. Our coaching staff did very well tonight, too.”

On what this wins says about the team:
“We beat a very good team in the San Antonio Spurs. We are all gelling right now and we are taking it day by day and improving every day. We will come back to practice tomorrow, turn the page and we have another game.”

On Danilo Gallinari’s clutch three-pointers:
“He played very well for us, like he does every game and you have to give credit to him; he hit some big shots for us and we needed that.”

Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari

On his confidence:
“I was confident in the first half. I thought I shot the ball very well. But I was taking good shots, especially at the end, I had to be really aggressive since the beginning of the game and they went in and they were very important and I’m glad we won the game.”

On the mood of the team when San Antonio cut the lead to three points:
“We were not playing at the same level; we were not running like we did to get up by 15. We slowed down the rhythm a little bit. We cannot do that against them; they are a very good team. They have good shooters and they came back very good, sharing the ball and shooting threes.”

On his confidence when the shots are going in like they were tonight:
“It feels good, it feels good, but it feels good because we won the game. If I made all of those shots, but we lost the game, we would probably be talking about something else right now. I was very happy that we were able to win the game.”

On the personality to close out games:
“With the team that we have, we could have a different protagonist every game and that has to be our strength. Tonight it was me, maybe next night it will be somebody else and that has to be our strength. I was really happy to knock those shots down tonight and win the game.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

On Tim Duncan’s season highs:
“I couldn’t be more proud of the effort. It has been a tough month and a half and coming in here, considering all of that, we looked like it in the first half and we asked them to dig down deep and they did and they got themselves back in it. I just couldn’t be more proud; just really shows the character of that group. We came up short and [Danilo] Gallinari ripped our hearts out with those two threes and Boris [Diaw] contested him better than anybody could possibly contest him and he just drilled that sucker so I give him credit and making shots at the end of the game often wins games and Gallinari did it.”

On if Tim Duncan has it in the tank on nights like this:
“No, he tells me. I try to hold him out at times and sometimes I win and sometimes I lose and Manu [Ginobili] tonight, they wouldn’t even look at me when I attempted. They just told me to basically go away. You could see it in their eyes that they wanted to play.”

On Patty Mills:
“He is a veteran player, he has played all over the world, Olympic games, has been on foreign teams and American teams; he just comes and plays. We threw him out there because we couldn’t buy a bucket and he is one of the guys, offensively, that helps us get in it. Nobody else can get it in the hole except Timmy [Duncan] and Patty, he helped us get there.”

Spurs forward Tim Duncan

On the fourth quarter:
“We didn’t give up. We played all the way to the horn and we had stretches there we just got them into transition and they were turning the ball over. That played right into our hands but we dug ourselves a hole. We have a great group of guys in here; we pushed hard and we really played hard. No matter what the score was, we were attacking them and making plays. We just didn’t make enough plays.”

On the end of the fourth quarter:
“I don’t remember exactly what happened; I know [Danilo] Gallinari made some big shots at the end. I know I missed a layup. I think we missed a couple of threes. They just had too much momentum and there was too little time for us to take it back.”

On playing for 40 minutes:
“I don’t care, I just show up. They play me however much they want to play me.”

On Guard Patty Mills’ play:
“Patty was great; we needed that tonight. We didn’t have a lot of guys making shots. We were making a lot of turnovers and Patty came in with that energy and made some threes for us. Defensively he made some plays for us as well. We were just looking for our spark from somewhere and he was the guy that did it for us.

POSTGAME NOTES

INDIVIDUAL

• Danilo Gallinari led the team in scoring with a season-high 28 points and came down with nine rebounds, marking the third time in his career that he has scored 28+ points and grabbed nine-or-more boards in the same game and the 11th time in his career he has posted 28+ points. Gallo is averaging 21.3 point in his last four games.

• Kenneth Faried scored 19 points and came down with 11 rebounds in tonight’s victory en route to his 11th double-double of the season and 23rd of his career (Denver is 18-5 in those games).

• Corey Brewer scored 16 points off the bench tonight and has now scored 14+ points in seven of Denver’s last nine games. In those nine games, Brewer is averaging 14.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.11 steals while shooting .523 percent (56-107 FG). Brewer has led the Nuggets’ bench in scoring 14 times this year.

• Kosta Koufos tied a career-high with 14 rebounds (new season-high) to go with four blocks tonight. It was the sixth time in his career with four-plus blocks (five with Denver) with his teams going 5-1 in those games (Denver 5-0).

• JaVale McGee blocked three shots in tonight’s victory, marking the 10th time this season he has done so. McGee has blocked two-or-more shots in six-straight games and eight of the last nine games (Averaging 3.00 blocks in his last nine).

• Tonight marks the fourth game this season that both Koufos and McGee have recorded three-or-more blocks, with the Nuggets going 3-1 in those games.

• Tim Duncan posted 31 points, 18 rebounds, six assists and five blocks in tonight’s game, marking the first time in his career that he has posted those numbers in the same game. Additionally, in the third quarter Duncan eclipsed the 23,000 point mark in his career. He joins Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history from the ACC to score at least 23,000 points in their career.

TEAM

• The Nuggets beat San Antonio 112-106, earning their third win in the last 11 games against San Antonio. Denver is now 7-1 at home this season.

• Denver made a season-high 29 free throws while attempting 42. They are now 4-0 when shooting 30-plus free throws.

• The Nuggets outrebounded San Antonio 58 to 45, giving them a +103 rebounding advantage on the season. Denver has outrebounded their opponent in 16 of their first 26 games and are 5-1 at home when doing so. Their 58 rebounds is their most in a regulation game this season.

• Denver recorded 11 steals and 10 blocks in tonight’s win. They are now 6-1 when registering 10+ steals and are also 6-1 when registering 10+ blocks this season.

• The Nuggets recorded 20 points off turnovers compared to the Spurs 12. Denver is now 8-2 on the year when posting more points off turnovers than their opponent.

• Denver scored a season-high 29 fast break points tonight, their ninth game with 20-or-more on the break. They have scored 27+ on the break in two of their last three games.

• The Spurs connected on 14 threes tonight, after hitting 16 in their first meeting against Denver on 11/17. It was the eighth time this year a Nuggets opponent has made 10-or-more threes, with Denver going 3-5 in those games.