Spurs-Nuggets Preview

The Associated Press

The San Antonio Spurs inched closer to the longest winning streak in franchise history despite nearly blowing a huge lead in the opener of a home-and-home set with Denver.

Now they'll likely face a tougher challenge at the Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets are on the verge of matching their best run of the season.

NBA-leading San Antonio looks to extend the league's longest current winning streak to 16 while denying Denver its sixth straight home victory Friday night.

The Spurs (55-16) seemed to be cruising in Wednesday's opener, leading by 20 midway through the third quarter against the visiting Nuggets (32-40). Denver, though, made things interesting with a 34-20 run over the final 11 minutes before Tim Duncan stepped up with 10 of the Spurs' final 11 points in a 108-103 victory.

"We played a good half, we played a bad half," said coach Gregg Popovich, whose club has a three-game lead on Oklahoma City for the league's best record. "The NBA is a 48-minute game and you've got to keep playing."

San Antonio will own the second-longest winning streak in team history by sweeping the season series from the Nuggets for the first time since taking four straight in 2001-02.

The Spurs, who have won by an average of 15.0 points during their current run, set the franchise mark with a 17-game winning streak from Feb. 29-March 31, 1996.

Duncan ended up with 29 points, 13 rebounds and five assists Wednesday, while Danny Green keyed the first-half charge with 16 points and 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range before leaving with a foot injury early in the second quarter.

The starting guard wore a walking boot as a precaution after the game. His status is uncertain until he undergoes further evaluation.

"All of a sudden he couldn't walk," Popovich said. "The bottom of the foot, there is something."

If Green can't go, Cory Joseph and Austin Daye could split time in the backcourt. Joseph had 12 points Monday, while Daye added 22 and hit six 3-pointers with Green and Tony Parker resting in an easy win over Philadelphia.

In the last meeting in Denver on Nov. 5, Parker shot 9 of 13 and finished with 24 points, Duncan had 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and the Spurs used a 30-16 fourth quarter to pull out a 102-94 victory.

Duncan has played well in the series, averaging 23.5 points, 11.2 boards and 3.4 blocks in his last five matchups.

The Nuggets have given up 111.3 points per game in their last 14 overall, but they've been outscoring opponents at home by averaging 116.4 in five straight victories. They're now just one win away from matching their season-best six-game run in November.

Denver, however, has scored 101.5 per game while dropping 11 of the last 15 overall meetings with the Spurs. On Wednesday, Aaron Brooks had 25 points with four 3s and Kenneth Faried added 24 - including 15 in the final quarter after the Nuggets awoke from their sluggish start.

"We were getting embarrassed in the first half," forward Darrell Arthur said. "I was upset. I had words with some of the guys in the locker room."

Faried has averaged 21.3 points and 11.3 boards in his last four home games. He'll try to continue carrying the scoring load in the frontcourt with Wilson Chandler expected to miss a fourth straight game because of a left groin strain.

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