SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Unbeaten in December, the San Antonio Spurs
are the NBA's hottest team. They now have the best record in the league to show for it.
David Robinson corrals a loose ball for the Spurs, who haven't lost in December.
San Antonio earned its 10th consecutive win Friday night,
defeating the Denver Nuggets 109-74 behind 21 points from Tim
Duncan. The win, combined with the Los Angeles Lakers' loss in Memphis, gives San Antonio a half-game advantage.
San Antonio improved its record to 20-4, the best record in
franchise history after 24 games. The 10-game winning streak is the
longest in the NBA this season.
"It was a fine performance for 48 minutes," San Antonio coach
Gregg Popovich said. "It was our first game where we've played
consistent for the whole game. That was good to see."
San Antonio, which connected on 59 percent of its field goal
attempts, placed five players in double figures as David Robinson
and Tony Parker scored 14 points apiece, while Charles Smith added 12.
"A lot of guys played well tonight," said Duncan, who shot
7-for-10 from the field. "I never expected to have the best record
at this point of the season. We are usually slow starters, but it
hasn't been that way this year. Guys have stepped into roles and
understanding the offense and defense, we're playing well."
Denver, which has lost seven of nine games, was led by Nick Van
Exel with 11 points, while Raef LaFrentz and James Posey added 10 apiece.
"They really sent a message that they weren't going to take us
lightly tonight," said Mike Evans, who coached the Nuggets for the fourth consecutive game while Dan Issel serves a suspension. "We really didn't play well, and they were excellent."
San Antonio, which trailed only briefly in the first quarter, connected on 13 of 19 field goal attempts in the first 12 minutes and led 34-19 after one quarter.
The Spurs stretched the advantage to 26 points, 59-33, with 4:36
remaining in the second quarter on Malik Rose's reverse layup.
Behind 15 first-half points by Duncan, San Antonio led 61-43 at
"I think we have been playing well on the defensive end,
rebounding the ball and pushing it back at people," Duncan said.
"We're giving ourselves opportunities to get the ball up the floor
off of stops."
Denver could get no closer than 16 points in the third quarter.
San Antonio closed the period with a 10-0 run to lead 85-55.
San Antonio continued to pour it on the fourth quarter, taking a
100-60 lead on Mark Bryant's jump shot with 4:54 to play.
Nuggets guard Avery Johnson played his first game in San Antonio since leaving the Spurs for Denver in the offseason. He played seven seasons for the Spurs. Johnson, who received a standing ovation when he entered the game with 2:27 remaining in the first quarter, finished with nine points.
"Those guys bought me dinner last night, showed me around the
city, then kicked me," Johnson said. "I have a half-smile right
now. But we definitely don't like those results."
Game notes In the Spurs' 20 wins, San Antonio has now scored 100
points or more 14 times ... Prior to the game, San Antonio
activated forward Mark Bryant and placed guard Jason Hart on the injured list with a low back sprain ... Duncan was held to three
rebounds, making it just the fourth time this season he has failed
to record a double-double ... The Spurs are now 15-2 versus the
Nuggests since Duncan's arrival in San Antonio.