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Spurs dominate 4th quarter, rally to beat Nuggets

The SportsXchange

DENVER - The Denver Nuggets couldn't seem to miss for the first three quarters.

In the final 12 minutes, they couldn't buy a bucket.

That's when the San Antonio Spurs pounced.

Point guard Tony Parker scored 24 points, forward Tim Duncan dropped in 17 and the San Antonio Spurs rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Nuggets 102-94 Tuesday night.

Forward Kawhi Leonard scored 14 points for the Spurs (3-1), who outscored Denver 30-16 in the fourth quarter.

"We just locked into the game in the fourth quarter," Leonard said. "It was our last chance to win the game."

Point guard Ty Lawson had 20 points and eight assists, and forward Kenneth Faried scored 15 for the Nuggets, who are off to an 0-3 start for the second consecutive season.

"We're not worried about it because we started 0-3 last year and we had one of the best home records ever, so we're staying positive," center JaVale McGee said.

The three losses to start last season all came on the road. The Nuggets have dropped their first two at home this season.

Early, it looked as if Denver would get its first win before shots sopped falling. Entering the fourth, the Nuggets shot 48 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point range. In the final period, they hit just 21 percent and missed all four 3-point attempts.

That allowed the Spurs, who trailed by 12 in the third quarter, to make a run at the start of the fourth. Guard Patty Mills' jumper from the top of the key cut the deficit to two, and center Tiago Splitter's three-point play with 9:06 remaining gave San Antonio an 81-80 lead, its first since early in the second quarter.

"We finally got some stops, followed by boards and turned them into offense," Duncan said. "Earlier, we were getting stops, we weren't getting rebounds or we were getting stops and rebounds but we weren't making shots and we had a stretch where we put all three together. It changed everything for us."

After the Nuggets regained the lead on a Faried jumper, forward Boris Diaw drained a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Spurs up for good. Diaw, guard Danny Green and Parker hit shots as San Antonio's lead grew to 92-84.

Denver went cold from the field, missing eight straight shots and managing just four free throws in a five-minute span. Faried, in the starting lineup for the first time, broke the drought with a fast-break dunk to pull the Nuggets within 94-88.

That was all the Nuggets could manage. They missed their next three shots as the Spurs began to pull away.

"We kind of lost our minds a little bit in the fourth quarter," Denver coach Brian Shaw, who is still looking for his first win, said. "We played well in the first three quarters but we didn't sustain it. That killed us."

McGee and backup center Timofey Mozgov played effectively in spurts but were hampered by foul trouble. McGee picked up his fifth on Splitter's layup with 9:06 to play, and less than a minute later, Mozgov fouled out.

"I thought the post defense was good overall because those guys are a handful," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "The defense kept them from scoring a lot and it was a big help."

The San Antonio defense was able to create turnovers throughout the game. Denver finished with 23, which hurt them once they went cold from the field.

The teams traded runs in the first half, with the Nuggets using one at the start of the second quarter to grab a double-digit lead. Faried had a steal and three buckets, and McGee added a putback dunk to give Denver a 39-29 lead midway through the period.

Lawson's 15-foot jumper made it a 12-point lead before the Spurs cut it to nine at half.

NOTES: Nuggets F Anthony Randolph sat out after spraining an ankle in Friday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. F Jordan Hamilton started in his place and scored 11 points. ... San Antonio PG Tony Parker entered the night averaging 18 points and eight assists. He is one of six players in NBA history to average at least 15 points and five assists while shooting 49 percent for a career. ... Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said he would put C JaVale McGee on a tighter rotation during the game in order to get him more minutes. McGee came into Tuesday playing 11:30 a game, but Shaw hopes holding him to five- or six-minute stretches will increase his playing time and effectiveness. McGee had nine points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes against San Antonio. ... The Spurs, who began the night averaging 23 assists a game, dished out 27 Tuesday. They led the NBA in assists last season at 25.1 per game.
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