Hill steps in, leads Spurs past Nuggets 111-92

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DENVER (AP)—After a month-long stretch of mediocre play, the San Antonio Spurs broke out with an emphatic victory over a top-notch team.

George Hill(notes) scored 17 points after starting in place of an injured Tony Parker(notes) and the Spurs headed into the All-Star break by routing the Northwest Division-leading Denver Nuggets 111-92 on Thursday night.

DeJuan Blair(notes) also scored 17 points, Tim Duncan(notes) added 16 and Manu Ginobili(notes) 15 for the Spurs, who snapped a three-game losing streak to Denver, including an 0-2 mark this season in San Antonio.

“It was big,” said Roger Mason(notes), who had 14 points. “We’ve been struggling with our consistency. It lets us know how good we can be. This Denver team was playing probably the best in the league. They won in L.A., they beat Dallas pretty good. It shows what we can do when we focus, communicate and do the things we’re capable of.”

The Spurs had gone 8-8 since Jan. 10 before knocking off the Nuggets with one of their best all-around efforts of the season, highlighted by a superb defensive performance.

“I thought we played better than we have played,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It was one of three or four games that we played really well defensively in the first half of the season.”

The Spurs outshot the Nuggets 53.2 percent to 39.2 in winning for just the third time in six games despite missing Parker, who was sidelined with a left hip flexor strain suffered three days ago during a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nuggets were missing their best defensive player, Kenyon Martin(notes), who sat out a second consecutive game because of tendinitis in his left knee.

“They were hungry. They were intense and angry and had an attitude,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “It was kind of payback for the two wins we took from them down there. Sometimes, I think when we don’t score, when we don’t have offense, we get frustrated. Other than the first quarter, we shot under 35 percent all night.”

Nene had 20 points and Carmelo Anthony(notes) 19 for the Nuggets, who lost for only the fourth time in 28 games this season at the Pepsi Center.

Down by nine at the half, the Nuggets narrowed the deficit to 56-52 on a fastbreak layup by Nene before San Antonio pulled away again.

The Spurs used a 7-0 burst capped by Mason’s 3-pointer to go in front 72-58 with 4:27 left in the third, and took an 83-70 advantage into the fourth quarter.

They continued pulling away from there, scoring 12 of the first 16 points in the final period to extend their lead to 95-74, their biggest to that point.

“I think in the back of their minds, they knew that we won on their court, got ‘em twice down there, and they saw this as an opportunity to get one going into the break,” Anthony said. “It was just one of those nights.”

Going on an 8-0 run to start the second quarter, the Spurs built a 40-29 advantage. Blair fueled the spree with three straight baskets, including a dunk that came after Malik Allen(notes) turned the ball over in San Antonio’s end of the court. Hill’s fastbreak layup with 6:49 left in the second extended San Antonio’s lead to 14 points, but Denver cut the deficit to 54-45 at halftime as Anthony made successive baskets in the last 52 seconds of the period.

San Antonio set a blistering shooting pace in the first quarter, hitting 72.2 percent of its shots (13 of 18), including all four from 3-point range, to take a 32-29 lead.

NOTES: The Nuggets failed to score 100 points for only the fourth time this season at the Pepsi Center. … The Spurs improved to 11-11 on the road. … San Antonio improved to 34-42 all-time in Denver. … Anthony had just his fifth sub-20 point game of the season. … Seven Spurs scored in double figures, including all five starters.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 San Antonio
D. Blair DeJuan Blair
8-11,  17 Pts
9 Rebs, 0 Assists
 Denver
N. Hilario Nene Hilario
8-9,  20 Pts
9 Rebs, 1 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists

Scoreboard

Thursday, Feb 11