Finley scored 11 of his 16 points during a four-minute span of
the fourth quarter Tuesday to steady the struggling Spurs and help
them to a 102-91 win over Denver in their first game defending the
championship they won in June.
"A lot has changed in the last year, but the game of basketball
has remained the same," said Finley, who played the past eight
years in Dallas. "I put myself in a position where I'm very happy,
very comfortable. I'm just going out there and playing."
Tony Parker scored 14 of his 26 points in the fourth, making all
seven of his shots for San Antonio, which trailed by five early in
the quarter. The Spurs missed only three of their 16 attempts in
"There's a reason the Spurs are the defending champions," said
Scott Brooks, Denver's acting coach while George Karl sits out a
two-game suspension. "They really execute down the stretch. They
just don't make many errors, and if you do, they really punish
Before the game, San Antonio unveiled its third championship
banner in the rafters of the SBC Center, and NBA commissioner David
Stern was there to shake hands with the players who received their
white gold-and-diamond title rings.
Then the Spurs came out flat.
"We were a little antsy to play the game, but at the same time
you want to do too many things in the first minutes," said Manu
Ginobili, who finished with 10 points on 2-for-9 shooting.
During the ring ceremony, Finley saw clearly why he wanted to
come to San Antonio.
"I was like a kid again when one of your friends on the block
has something and you told your mom, 'I want one of those," he
said of the jewelry that has so far eluded him during his career.
"It was a little bit emotional for me, so I played like that was
what I was playing for."
San Antonio trailed most of the second half until Finley hit a
19-footer to put the Spurs up 79-78 with about nine minutes
remaining in the game. Then hit another jumper, followed by a
"He's a professional," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "He's
not going to shy away from a jump shot."
With about seven minutes left, Finley made his play of the
He missed a corner jumper that was rebounded by Tim Duncan, and
he cut to the basket for a pass and dunked it with enthusiasm to
make it 86-81.
Duncan had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who won
their 11th straight regular-season home game.
"I though we played well but it really comes down to making
plays late in the game," said Martin. "They did it, we didn't."
For most of the game, they were without key reserve Nene, who
left in the first quarter with a leg injury.
Duncan, who scored eight straight points midway through the
first period, stole the ball from Nene under the Nuggets' basket
and then made a layup at the other end to give San Antonio its
first lead at 20-19 after the Spurs lagged by as many as nine.
Nene hobbled off the floor after the play with what the team
described as a sprained right anterior cruciate ligament. He did
Down by six after one quarter, Denver took a 30-29 lead on a
3-point play by Najera early in the second. Boykins scored nine of
his 11 first-half points in the period on 4-for-5 shooting. The
Nuggets took a 48-46 lead at the break on a tip-in by Marcus Camby
with 36 seconds left.
Both Denver and San Antonio are now in their 30th season as
NBA franchises. They were accepted into the league in June 1976,
along with Indiana and New Jersey. ... Because of the suspension,
Karl will also miss Wednesday night's home opener against the Los
Angeles Lakers. He can return to the bench in Denver for Friday's
contest against Portland. ... Denver missed all seven of its
3-pointers, while the Spurs went 4-for-13 behind the arc. ... San
Antonio is 9-0 on opening night since Duncan has been with the