Short-handed Spurs win fifth straight

DENVER (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs are becoming big rodeo fans.

Tim Duncan had 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and
Tony Parker scored 19 of his 23 points in the third quarter as the
San Antonio Spurs beat the Denver Nuggets 83-74 Thursday night for
their fifth straight win.

The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo at the SBC Center forced the
Spurs out on the longest road trip in franchise history.

The Spurs opened the nine-game trip with a 106-95 loss to
Minnesota, but followed with wins over Indiana, Orlando and Miami.
The Spurs beat Golden State 103-99 Wednesday night before traveling
to Denver for their final game before the All-Star break.

San Antonio's next home game is Feb. 18 against Denver.

"The rodeo is important in San Antonio and we have no choice,
so what are you going to do?'' San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich
said. "The guys have reacted really well.''

San Antonio played without center David Robinson, out because of
a sore knee. The Spurs then lost third-leading scorer Stephen
Jackson to a sprained right ankle five minutes into the game.

The lineup dropped to nine players when Jackson's replacement,
Emanuel Ginobili, went down with a sprained right ankle with 45
seconds left in the second.

It didn't matter against the lowly Nuggets.

The Spurs hit 10 of 19 shots in the first quarter and never
looked back to win for the seventh time in eight games. The Spurs
have won 14 of 17 overall.

"It was a huge win for us to get this one, especially with a
whole bunch of our guys going down,'' Duncan said. "We finished
into the All-Star break on a positive note and hopefully we can
come out the same way.''

Denver was seeking just its second three-game winning streak of
the season, but the Nuggets struggled on both ends against the
surging Spurs.

The Nuggets had scored at least 100 points in two of their past
three games, but shot 40 percent and had 22 turnovers in failing to
reach 80 points for the 23rd time this season.

The final minutes of the third quarter epitomized Denver's

Mark Blount shot an airball on a short jump hook, then Chris
Andersen followed with a straightaway jumper that caromed hard off
the backboard and rim. Blount closed the stretch by clanging an
open dunk off the back of the rim toward Denver's bench.

The Nuggets were 8-for-22 in the quarter and had as many points
as Parker (19) as the Spurs extended the lead to 68-51.

"You won't win games when you turn the ball over that many
times,'' Denver point guard Junior Harrington said. "We just
didn't execute.''

Duncan had his way with Denver rookie Nene Hilario inside,
hitting all five of his shots for 10 points in the first, including
a dunk over Donnell Harvey midway through.

Most of San Antonio's points came on easy baskets inside,
clearly frustrating Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik. He jumped out of his
seat after Ginobili scored on a flying putback, but could only put
his hands on his hips and stare at his young team.

"You can pin it on me. You can pin it on youth and you can pin
it on a lot of things, but the bottom line is it's not getting
done,'' Bzdelik said.

The Nuggets weren't much better on offense.

Denver set an NBA record with just three points in the first
quarter of a 99-68 loss to San Antonio on Nov. 27. The Nuggets were
better this time -- barely.

Denver was just 2-for-11 with four turnovers in the first seven
minutes and had just four points until Juwan Howard hit a 14-foot
jumper with 3:54 left. The Nuggets, the league's worst-shooting
team, were 6-for-18 and trailed 20-12 after one quarter.

Howard led Denver with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists
before fouling out late in the fourth.

Game notes
Denver C/F
Marcus Camby shot with the team before the game,
but didn't play. Camby, who has missed 10 games with a sprained
right ankle, hopes to be back after the All-Star break. ...
Robinson, who is retiring at the end of the season, received a warm
ovation from Denver's fans after his name was announced late in the
first quarter. ... Denver dropped to 1-32 when its opponent scores
at least 83 points.