PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference first round; tied 1-1.
Denver hopes to carry its regular-season dominance at the Pepsi Center into the playoffs when it meets San Antonio in Game 3 of the teams’ best-of-seven series.
The Nuggets used physical defense Sunday night to frustrate the Spurs into a 10-minute field-goal drought in the fourth quarter, and rallied for a 93-87 road win in Game 1.
Seventh-seeded Denver can take the series by winning its three home games. Now it’s San Antonio, the No. 2 seed, that needs to steal a win on the road.
“The playoff series begins when someone wins on someone else’s court,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We started that process, but it’s a long way from four wins.”
The Nuggets have been outstanding at home under Karl, going 19-1. Denver won its last 12 regular-season games at the Pepsi Center, its longest home winning streak since 1989.
San Antonio evened the series on Wednesday in dominating fashion.
The Spurs made nine of their first 10 shots and then outscored Denver by 20 points in the second quarter of their 104-76 victory.
San Antonio worked the ball into Tim Duncan on just about every possession early, a significant move as it was a test for his sprained right ankle.
“We’re tough mentally,” Duncan said. “We have a team that, after a game like our first game, we’re going to come back and respond and we’re going to respond in the right way. We have all season.”
Duncan had 24 points, Tony Parker scored 19 and reserve Manu Ginobili added 17 points in 18 minutes for the Spurs. Brent Barry, who started in Ginobili’s place, made all four of his 3-pointers and scored 16 points.
Despite the Game 2 rout, the Nuggets came away satisfied with a split in San Antonio.
“We have a home court that’s pretty good,” Karl said. “I think I have a basketball team that’s going to respond with the pride that San Antonio showed tonight.”
Denver had a strong offensive performance in Game 1, but San Antonio was much better defensively on Wednesday. The Spurs, who allowed an NBA-low 88.4 points per game this season, prevented the Nuggets from getting out on the break, limiting them to two points in transition.
Denver guard Earl Boykins said that will have to change for the Nuggets to have a chance to win the series.
“We’re going to have to get the game uptempo, get out and get a lot of easy baskets for ourselves,” said Boykins, averaging 8.5 points and 2.5 assists in the series.
“Any loss like that is embarrassing,” Anthony said. “After the first game we expected someone to get better. They were the team that got better.”
Game 4 is Monday in Denver.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Spurs - 2nd seed. Nuggets - 7th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Spurs - Duncan, 21 ppg; Mohammed, 11 rpg; Parker, 6 apg. Nuggets - Miller, 21 ppg and 6 apg; Camby, 12 rpg.