SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs, the worst free-throw
shooting team in the NBA, saved themselves at the foul line on
Wednesday night's season finale against Denver.
The Spurs scored 16 of their 32 first-half points against the
Nuggets from the line, keeping them in the game until their
shooting could kick into gear in the second half of what became a
It was the 11th straight win for the Spurs, who finished with a
season-high 53 free throws and made 36 of them.
"Bad first half, great second half, playoffs start Saturday,"
summed Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose third-seeded team hosts
No. 6 Memphis in the opener.
San Antonio, trailing by a point at the break, doubled its
first-half total by scoring 32 points in the third quarter while
holding the Nuggets to 5-for-19 shooting for 16 points in the
period. Denver scored only 34 points in the final two quarters.
"In the third we came out really aggressive and I thought our
defense stepped up," Tim Duncan said. "Things seemed to go well
Duncan had 23 points and 16 rebounds for the Spurs, and Tony
Parker had all 11 of his points in the third, nine of them from the
The Spurs led by as many as 28 points in the fourth quarter.
Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said his team was pushed around the
court by San Antonio and that he hopes the players learned from
"They had 53 free-throw attempts and I felt a lot of those were
a result of our defensive mistakes," he said. "I think that's
where our guys have to understand the physicality that's going to
happen in the playoffs."
San Antonio, the NBA champion, came into the game with an
outside chance to win the Midwest Division title. But Minnesota
took the division and the top seed in the Western Conference by
beating the Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
The Timberwolves will meet No. 8 Denver in the first round.
Carmelo Anthony, guarded mostly by perimeter defender Bruce
Bowen, led the Nuggets with 12 points, but shot only 5-for-15.
Three of his baskets came in the fourth period.
"Everyone here is excited about getting started in practice
tomorrow," he said. "We know going in no one is giving us a shot
at winning. We'll just have to go in there and try to earn some
San Antonio made only three baskets in the first quarter -- one
by Duncan and two by Robert Horry -- and just five more in the
second. But thanks to 16 free throws, the Spurs trailed only 33-32
at the break.
The Spurs, who shot 8-for-29 (27.6 percent) in the half, trailed
by 10 points early in the second before they went on an 11-2 run to
cut the difference to 29-28 on a short jumper by Jason Hart.
A dunk by Duncan briefly gave San Antonio the lead at 32-31 in
the final minute, but Earl Boykins, at 5-foot-5, responded with a
high-arcing jumper over the 7-foot Duncan with 3.9 seconds
remaining to put the Nuggets back on top.
Anthony went 1-for-5 in the half for two points.
San Antonio has held the Nuggets to 78.3 points in four
games this season, nearly 20 points below their season scoring
average. ... The Spurs are 30-4 in April over the past four years
and 55-14 in the month since Duncan's arrival in 1997-98. ...
Denver's Mark Pope, activated before the game, scored his first
basket of the season on a breakaway layup in the fourth. ... The
Nuggets finished the season 1-10 on the road against Midwest
opponents and 11-13 overall.