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Nuggets-Spurs Preview

AP - Sports

Given their recent play without starting point guard Ty Lawson, coach George Karl wasn't surprised that the Denver Nuggets' lengthy winning streak came to end.

Getting back on track likely won't be any easier when Denver visits a San Antonio Spurs team that's seeking a sixth consecutive home victory Wednesday night.

Lawson has missed the last three games with a right heel injury and it's uncertain when he'll return. The Nuggets (49-23) have struggled against sub-.500 competition without him, slipping past Philadelphia and Sacramento by a combined seven points before losing 110-86 at New Orleans on Monday.

The defeat ended a team record-tying 15-game winning streak, and Lawson's absence was clearly a big factor.

''He's important to us because he makes everyone else fit,'' Karl said. ''These last three games we were thinking we are better than we are. It's human nature.''

Danilo Gallinari had 24 points Monday, but he's shot 32 percent over his last nine games. Andre Miller has been starting in Lawson's place and scored nine for Denver, which was held to its lowest point total since an 81-72 loss to Memphis on Dec. 29.

''We were constantly taking the ball out of the basket and getting frustrated," Miller said. "They outplayed us and outworked us at both ends.''

While Denver has been awaiting the return of its point guard, Tony Parker has thrived for the Spurs in his two games back after missing the previous eight with a sprained left ankle.

Parker scored 22 points in a 104-97 overtime win over Utah on Friday and had 23 in a 96-95 loss at Houston on Sunday.

"Tony's fine, feels good," coach Gregg Popovich said. "He probably gets a little winded still but he's playing well."

Parker scored a season-high 12 fourth-quarter points against the Rockets as the Spurs' comeback fell just short.

''TP is getting his rhythm back,'' Tim Duncan said. ''He's feeling good and obviously, he's our attack guy on the floor and he is the guy we go through in the fourth quarter. He made some plays to get us back in the game and gave us a chance to win it.''

San Antonio (53-17), which leads Oklahoma City by 1 1/2 games in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference, had its four-game winning streak snapped.

''The last few games have been pretty good,'' Popovich said. ''I thought we worked hard, executed pretty well, (but) you can't turn it over 18 times on the road.''

The Spurs, winners of five straight at home, follow this contest by hosting the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday before Sunday's showdown with league-best Miami, which is riding a 27-game winning streak.

"You have to take it game by game," Duncan said. "I don't think anyone goes into any streak thinking they're going to win 20-some in a row. It kind of builds and you start feeling good about yourself. It'll be a great game (versus Miami)."

The Spurs have won four of the last five meetings with the Nuggets in San Antonio.

Duncan finished with 31 points and 18 rebounds but Gallinari scored 28 in Denver's 112-106 home victory in the most recent matchup Dec. 18.

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