SAN ANTONIO, April 27 (Ticker) -- Tim Duncan
looked a lot better. So did
the rest of the San Antonio Spurs.
Duncan scored 18 of his 24 points in a huge first half as the
Spurs cruised to a 104-76 victory over the Denver Nuggets that
evened their Western Conference first-round series at one game
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The second-seeded Spurs changed their starting lineup and got a
much better effort from Tony Parker
as they overwhelmed the
seventh-seeded Nuggets, who stole home-court advantage with a
stunning win in Game One.
Duncan clearly was not himself in the opener. Still recovering
from a sprained ankle, he made just 7-of 22 shots. His
elevation and explosion were limited as he missed all seven of
his shots in the final period.
This one was a different story. Duncan scored six points in the
first period, when all of the Spurs displayed a crispness that
had not been evident in Game One and raced to a 29-18 lead.
"(The ankle) felt pretty good," he said. "It gets a little
fatigued throughout the game, but all in all, it feels pretty
good. I hope it continues to improve."
There were dramatic differences other than Duncan. Parker, who
was severely outplayed by Andre Miller
in Game One, began with
more purpose scored 12 of his 19 points in the opening period.
And Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
, looking for more energy from his
bench, sat down All-Star guard Manu Ginobili
in favor of
"I wanted the team to get some rhythm," Popovich said. "More
than anything, it was just to get a different look off the
"We all want to win every game so bad, we will do whatever it
takes to get the win," Ginobili said. "I talked to Pop
yesterday and I said to him that if you feel it would help us,
then do it. I don't care, I only have one goal and that's to
win a championship. I felt comfortable with it."
The move worked to perfection as Barry scored eight of his 16
points in the first quarter and Ginobili had 12 of his 17 points
in the second period, when San Antonio turned it into a rout.
"Manu was able to come in and give us a spark off the bench,"
Barry said. "It is nice to go out and play and it doesn't
matter whether I start or not. I just want to go out and
contribute, whether that is a couple of minutes or more."
Rookie Beno Udrih
added 10 points off the bench for the Spurs,
who dominated in every category, shooting 48 percent (34-of-71)
from the field, holding a 46-39 advantage on the glass and
leading by as many as 33 points.
"It's embarrassing. Any loss like that is embarrassing,"
Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony
said. "We just got to soak this
one in and go home with a good attitude. We're going home for
two games and we have to go home and take care of business."
The series shifts to Denver for Games Three and Four on Saturday
and Monday. Since George Karl
took over as coach, the Nuggets
are 19-1 at home.
However, they are going to have to play better than this. The
Nuggets shot just 36 percent (27-of-75), had no player with more
than 12 points and were outscored, 18-2, on the fast break.
"I told them two days ago, it's not necessarily whether you win
or lose, but how we responded to their fight and they did fight
back," Karl said. "I just didn't think it would be that much of
a separation. I didn't think my team quit, they fought hard.
... San Antonio is the best team in the NBA."
Parker made a 3-pointer and jumper and Barry added two free
throws to give the Spurs a 23-10 lead with 4:16 left in the
Ginobili scored 12 points and Duncan eight in a 24-4 run that
extended the advantage to 60-28 with 1:37 remaining in the first
half. Denver got no closer than 19 points thereafter.
"It was a great bounce-back game for us," Duncan said. "We had
great focus out of the gate. I knew we'd respond in the right
way after what we put up in the fourth quarter last game."