DENVER (AP)Lagging behind much of the game, the San Antonio Spurs leaned on their fourth-quarter defense to come out on top.
Tony Parker scored 24 points, Tim Duncan had 17 and the Spurs pulled away in the final period to beat the Denver Nuggets 102-94 on Tuesday night.
“It was our defense,” Duncan said after the Spurs outscored the Nuggets 30-16 in the fourth quarter. “We finally got some stops, followed by boards, and turned them into offense. 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.”
Kawhi Leonard added 14 points and Tiago Splitter 12 for the Spurs, who beat the Nuggets for the fifth time in the last eight meetings at the Pepsi Center.
“I thought our defense was much better in the fourth,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich added. “We held them to about 13 points until the very end when Ty Lawson went to the line. But our aggressiveness on defense picked up, which fueled our offense.”
Lawson had 20 points to lead Denver, which is still seeking its first win of the season under first year coach Brian Shaw.
Shaw said he thought his team played well for three quarters but failed to close the game out when it had the chance.
“We didn’t sustain that in the fourth quarter. That killed us,” Shaw said. “We just kind of lost our mind in the fourth quarter.”
Kenneth Faried scored 15 points and had eight rebounds in his return to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in Denver’s first two games while dealing with a sore hamstring.
Trailing by nine at halftime, the Spurs scored nine of the first 11 points opening the fourth quarter, going in front 81-80 on Splitter’s three-point play with 9:06 remaining.
Denver backup center Timofey Mozgov fouled out with 8:22 remaining and starting center JaVale McGee, who was on the bench with five fouls, didn’t re-enter the game until there were about five minutes left.
The Spurs took advantage, putting together an 11-2 burst that Parker culminated with an 18-foot jumper giving San Antonio a 92-84 lead with 5:30 remaining.
“It was big for us,” Duncan said. “They’re big guys and shot blockers, they were affecting what we were doing in there. To get them on the bench and get them out of the game was huge for us.”
A dunk by Faried pulled the Nuggets to 94-88 with 3:28 left to play. But again, Parker connected on a mid-range jumper and Leonard, after a steal, shook free for a fast-break dunk as the Spurs opened a 10-point lead with 2:23 left. That was more than enough to hold off the Nuggets the rest of the way.
Mozgov said the Nuggets have to do a better job of finishing.
“We had a loss of concentration,” he said. “We’ve got to go all 48 minutes. We’ve got to keep going. That’s it.”
After Splitter made one of two free throws tying it 29-all, the Nuggets pulled back in front with a 12-0 run, starting with consecutive baskets by Faried, including a breakaway dunk following a steal.
The Spurs got back to 48-43 as Matt Bonner hit a 3-pointer and Parker made a pair of free throws but the Nuggets closed the second quarter with a 3-pointer by Andre Miller and a free throw by Lawson for a 52-43 halftime lead.
NOTES: The Spurs’ Bonner sat out the second half because of tightness in his left calf. … The first-half point total for the Nuggets represented a season high. … Denver’s Anthony Randolph, who has been hampered by an ankle sprain, was held out of the game. … The Spurs scored 27 points off 23 turnovers by the Nuggets.
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