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Nuggets capitalize on absence of Spurs' stars

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 11:10 AM

DENVER – This wasn't quite the test Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets had in mind.

With Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all sidelined Tuesday night, the Denver Nuggets took advantage for a 104-96 win over the San Antonio Spurs after frittering away most of a 17-point lead.

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, left, is fouled as he foes up for a shot Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, left, is fouled as he foes up for a shot by San Antonio Spurs

Ginobili has a bruised hip, and coach Gregg Popovich said he decided to give Duncan and Parker the night off in Denver following the Spurs' overtime win at Golden State Monday night.

Anthony scored 35 points, but he had to come back into the game with 8:47 left and the Nuggets clinging to an 80-78 lead. His return had an immediate impact as he spaced the floor and the Nuggets suddenly had open looks and went on a 9-0 run.

Again, San Antonio's subs fought back, pulling to 98-94 with two minutes left on a 3-pointer by Roger Mason, who led the Spurs with 26 points.

'Melo countered with a free throw and a jumper, and the Nuggets escaped.

Anthony, who spent the last three days getting used to practicing again after missing several weeks with a broken bone in his right hand, said the Spurs' visit was a barometer for the Nuggets, who fancy themselves conference contenders now that they have Chauncey Billups at the helm.

A win over San Antonio would validate that notion, Anthony argued. But the Spurs he really wanted to go against weren't the ones on the court.

Denver wasn't at full-strength, either. Kenyon Martin missed the game with tonsillitis and strep throat, and Billups sprained his right ankle in the second quarter and didn't return.

With so many starters out, other players who normally don't steal the spotlight had the chance to shine.

In one two-minute stretch in the second quarter, Chris Anderson, who had three blocks in the first quarter, strung together three highlight dunks and Linas Kleiza had a reverse layup while running along the baseline for Denver, which took a 56-44 halftime lead.

Nene had 17 points for the Nuggets and Kleiza added 13.

Notes:@ San Antonio fell to 7-4 in the second of back-to-back games this season. ... The Spurs are in the midst of an eight-game road trip. They won't play at home again until facing Dallas on Feb. 24. ... The Nuggets now embark on an eight-game swing of their own, and they won't play at the Pepsi Center again until Feb. 23 when the Boston Celtics make their one and only trip to the Mile High city. ... Anthony was 14-of-15 from the stripe.

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