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Miller's 31 points enough to carry Denver

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- A fourth quarter that started with so much
promise for the San Antonio Spurs turned into an exercise in
futility. After making their first three shots, the Spurs missed
their next 17.

The Denver Nuggets didn't shoot much better down the stretch but
frustrated San Antonio by playing physical defense while rallying
for a 93-87 victory Sunday.

"We're not a great defensive team for 48 minutes most nights,"
Denver coach George Karl said. "But we have learned somehow this
year to play defense in the fourth quarter."

A 14-footer by Glenn Robinson with 10:20 left gave the Spurs an
81-76 lead in the opening game of the first-round playoff series.
But after that, San Antonio's drought lasted until Robert Horry
made a 3-pointer with 9 seconds left. The Spurs went 4-for-21 in
the fourth, while the Nuggets were 6-for-19.

"We had some great looks," said Tim Duncan, who went 0-for-7
in the fourth quarter, all the shots coming from 8 feet or closer.
"There were a lot of shots around the basket that I should have
made."

Despite the offensive troubles, the Spurs stayed ahead until
Earl Boykins made a high-arching jumper over 6-foot-10 Nazr
Mohammed with 1:56 remaining to give Denver an 85-84 lead.

The Nuggets then got a short jumper from Marcus Camby and three
free throws from Miller to build a nine-point lead in the final
minute.

"There was a lot of energy out there," said Andre Miller, who
scored 31 to top his previous playoff high of 21 points. "The
fourth quarter, we stepped it up."

Carmelo Anthony had 14 points, Camby 12 and Kenyon Martin 11 for
Denver. Camby, who missed the final three games of the regular
season with a hamstring strain, also had 12 rebounds.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night in San
Antonio.

"The first game is hard and the second one will be harder,"
said Anthony, whose team finished the regular season with 25 wins
in its final 29 games. "The further you go, the tougher it gets."

Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 23 points, his career playoff
high, and Duncan scored 18 with 11 rebounds. Mohammed added 15
points and 15 rebounds for the Spurs, who led by as many as nine
points in the first half, and Tony Parker finished with 12.

Duncan quickly dispelled any notion that he would go easy after
missing a dozen late-season games with a badly sprained right
ankle. He made three baskets in the game's opening minutes, ran the
floor in transition and bumped bodies at both ends with Martin and
Camby as the Nuggets consistently double-teamed him. He played 35
minutes.

"Timmy gave us everything that he could," Spurs coach Gregg
Popovich said. "Obviously he's not in his typical rhythm and not
on the top of his game, but we knew that going in."

Miller carried Denver's offense in the first half, scoring 24
points on 11-for-16 shooting.

"He was the one keeping their team alive," said Ginobili, who
was among the Spurs who tried to contain Miller. "He was making
tough shots, being a real leader."

Ginobili went 6-for-8 and had 18 points in the half for San
Antonio, which trailed only once before the break.

The Spurs made it 52-44 on a dunk by Ginobili on an inbounds
pass from Parker. But Miller came back with a jumper and Camby
converted a three-point play to pull the Nuggets to 52-49 with 5.7
seconds remaining in the second quarter.

Ginobili then picked up an offensive foul by bowling over Camby
on a drive, and Miller hit a 41-foot heave as time ran out to knot
the score at 52.

Anthony scored only four points in the half on 2-for-7
shooting.

Game notes
San Antonio is now 6-2 in opening playoff games since
Duncan joined the team in 1997-98. ... Duncan is 22 points shy of
2,000 in the playoffs. ... Horry's first 3-pointer, late in the
third quarter, was his 200th in the postseason in his 13-year
career. ... Anthony has averaged 14.8 points on 34.6 percent
shooting in his five career playoff games. His career
regular-season average is 20.9 ppg. ... DerMarr Johnson scored his
first playoff points on a first-quarter tip-in for Denver. He went
scoreless in three postseason games with New York last season.