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Sports

Spurs break away, top Nuggets 96-91

April 29th, 2007 12:45 am by ARNIE STAPLETON



DENVER - The San Antonio Spurs have their swagger back.


Tim Duncan had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker sliced their way through Denver's defense in a 96-91 victory over the Nuggets on Saturday night.


The Spurs took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Monday night at the Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets went just 23-18 during the season, the seventh- worst home record in franchise history.


Parker led San Antonio with 21 points and Ginobili added 19, but it was two old pros who put the game out of reach.


A flurry of 3-pointers from Robert Horry (10 points) and Michael Finley (16) allowed the Spurs to break away from the Nuggets late in the third quarter.


Finley started it off with a 3 that gave San Antonio a 64-62 lead. After a jumper by Allen Iverson tied it, Ginobili sank two free throws, then Horry stole the ball from J.R. Smith under the basket and sank his own 3-pointer for a 69-64 lead.


The Nuggets, who got 28 points from Carmelo Anthony and 20 from Iverson, never recovered.


Iverson and Smith got tangled up going for a rebound and Finley raced downcourt for another 3 that made it 72-64 with 1:02 left in the quarter, forcing a timeout.


Horry then set up in the right corner and sank another 3-pointer to give San Antonio a 75-67 lead going into the fourth quarter.


Smith, in the game for his 3-point prowess, was whistled for a flagrant foul on Ginobili, whose two free throws made it 77-67.


The Nuggets trimmed their deficit to five points on several occasions and got within three in the final seconds, but a series of forced shots that clanged off the iron doomed Denver to another home loss and returned the home-court advantage to San Antonio, which lost Game 1 at home before winning the next two.


Horry's jumper with 42 seconds left made it 94-87, but Smith made a shot and 'Melo's layup with 7.8 seconds made it 94-91. Ginobili sank two free throws with 4.5 seconds left to ice it.


Iverson, who missed 16 of his 25 shots in Denver's Game 2 loss, was just 3-for-10 in the first half and finished 7-for-20. Nene added 18 points.


Nuggets center Marcus Camby accepted his award for Defensive Player of the Year in pregame ceremonies, then quickly tried his hand at offense, but was just 1-for-6 in the first quarter and committed an offensive foul on another drive to the basket.


The Spurs hit two clock-beating 3-pointers in the closing minutes of the first quarter to trim an early eight-point deficit to 25-22. The first one was Parker's and came after Finley sank a free throw when Denver coach George Karl drew a rare technical from official Bob Delaney for leaving the coach's box while arguing for a call.


The Spurs took a 43-40 halftime lead after dictating another slow-paced game.


The Nuggets' reserves were outscored by San Antonio's 33-12 - with all of Denver's points coming from Smith.


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