Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 4)

Series starts 11/1

Game 1: Tuesday, November 1st
Game 2: Saturday, December 31st
Game 3: Sunday, January 22nd
Game 4: Wednesday, March 22nd

Spurs 98

(24-7, 10-6 away)

Nuggets 88

(14-17, 9-7 home)

Coverage: KRRT

7:00 PM ET, December 31, 2005

Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

1 2 3 4 T
SA 18 23 28 2998
DEN 15 30 16 2788

Top Performers

SA: T. Duncan 25 Pts, 10 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Den: C. Anthony 25 Pts, 8 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Spurs down Nuggets; Ginobili getting in groove 

DENVER (AP) -- Manu Ginobili doesn't want to get used to it, but he sure is getting good at it.

Coming off the bench again, Ginobili scored 20 points and dished out a season-best eight assists in leading the San Antonio Spurs past the Denver Nuggets 98-88 Saturday night.

"I try play the same all the time," said Ginobili, who is still working his way back from a foot injury. "I'll play hard if I play five minutes or five seconds. If I start or come off the bench. I will play hard. I will play tough and I will play aggressively. I try to get my rhythm going immediately."

So, with Ginobili not starting, the defending NBA champs now sport the league's best bench. Ginobili played 24 minutes and had his best performance since returning from an eight-game absence on Monday night.

He sure impressed teammate Robert Horry, who knows a thing or two about going from starter to reserve.

"You have to get into the right mindset. It took me forever when I first started coming off the bench," Horry said. "You have to learn how to stay loose and stay warm. It was tough for me at first. You become used to it. Just like old hat after a while."

Horry showed that Saturday night, scoring 10 points off the bench, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the decisive third-quarter run that put San Antonio ahead for good.

Tim Duncan led San Antonio with 25 points, helping the Spurs survive a tough night by Tony Parker, who was limited to six points and six assists as the Nuggets stopped his penetrations time and time again.

Behind Kenyon Martin's 12 boards, the Nuggets also outrebounded the taller Spurs 49-39, but while they found their elusive defensive rhythm, their offense left them as they shot just 34 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 16 times while scoring their fewest points at home all season.

"That's what happens when you're struggling," Denver coach George Karl said. "We did a great job on Parker. Kenyon and our bigs did a great job battling and competing in the paint. Best rebounding game we've had in a long time. And someone told me we missed over 20 layups and we made free throws when it didn't count. We didn't make free throws when it did count. And when we had it in reach in the fourth quarter, he had some unforced turnovers."

Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points for the Nuggets, who have lost four of their last five at the Pepsi Center and seven of nine overall. They're a season-worst three games under .500.

Exemplifying their frustrations was Martin, who had his first double-double of the year but drew a technical foul for hollering an expletive at official Greg Willard, who whistled him for a foul when he slapped the ball away from Duncan with 1:27 remaining.

Nothing seems to be going right for Denver.

"We thought this was a time we could get well. Come home, got six straight home games. It's very frustrating," Martin said.

Denver led 45-41 after a sloppy first half in which the Nuggets shot 33 percent and the Spurs 37 percent, but Ginobili scored six points in a run the Spurs used to take a 61-57 lead in the third quarter.

Then, Horry came off the bench and provided the Spurs with a big spark by sinking consecutive 3-pointers after drawing a charge from Anthony and just like that San Antonio had a 10-point lead at 69-59.

Karl said fatigue was becoming a factor for his team, which has been beset by injuries all season, particularly in the frontcourt. The Nuggets lost Nene to a season-ending knee injury in the opener and center Marcus Camby, the league's leading rebounder, indefinitely after he underwent surgery to fix a broken right pinkie earlier in the week.

"Mentally, we're pretty fragile," Karl said. "If we rebound and defend with the attitude we had tonight against some weaker teams, I think we have a chance to get out of this funk and get moving in a good direction.

"Nene and Marcus's injuries and the bangs and bruises that we've had have got us a little frustrated, but we're not that far away from turning the corner."

Duncan concurred: "Kenyon can't play his regular minutes. Camby is out. I think they will be fine down the stretch."

The Spurs are fine right now, even -- or especially -- with Ginobili coming off the bench.

Game notes

The Nuggets have lost six straight to the Spurs, counting last season's playoff series. ... Denver shot a season-low 34 percent.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 98 88
FGM-FGA 34-78 (.436) 26-76 (.342)
3PM-3PA 7-24 (.292) 3-6 (.500)
FTM-FTA 23-29 (.793) 33-44 (.750)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 7-39 18-49
Assists 28 16
Turnovers 10 16
Steals 6 5
Blocks 8 6
Fast Break Points 19 14
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 29 (2/0) 23 (1/0)
Largest Lead 10 6

Top Performers

San Antonio
Tim Duncan Duncan
Points: 25
Reb: 10
Ast: 2
Stl: 1
Blk: 1
Carmelo Anthony Anthony
Points: 25
Reb: 8
Ast: 3
Stl: 1
Blk: 0