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Resurgent Spurs dump Nuggets

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DENVER — The San Antonio Spurs are beginning to look like a championship team again.

The Denver Nuggets, on the other hand, are looking like a lottery team for a second straight season.

Forward Kawhi Leonard had 17 points and 15 rebounds, and guard Tony Parker scored 18 points to help the Spurs beat the Nuggets 109-99 Tuesday night.

Forward Tim Duncan scored all of his 16 points in the second half for San Antonio, which earned its fourth consecutive win and sixth in seven games after a rough end to 2014.

“In December, we had a very tough one, not only with the amount of games but with the level of opponents,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “We don’t have to get too satisfied thinking we fixed everything. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

The Spurs surged since going 8-10 in December. The return of Parker from a hamstring injury and Leonard from a hand injury last week gave the lineup a boost.

“We all felt like we gave away some of those games in December,” Leonard said. “We just have to win out these next games, get into a rhythm going into the All-Star break.”

The Spurs (27-16) continued their upswing against the struggling Nuggets. Denver, which lost by 43 at Golden State on Monday afternoon, put up a better effort against San Antonio, but it wasn’t enough to stop its current slide.

Denver forward Kenneth Faried tied a season high with 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and guard Arron Afflalo scored 21 points. The Nuggets lost their fourth in a row following a five-game winning streak, slipping further out of the postseason chase by falling to 12-10 at home.

“Today, we tried,” Faried said. “We brung it, but the Spurs are a championship team, and they’re on a hot streak right now. It’s kind of tough when you’re in a drought and you play a team like that. And they come out and kind of school you a little bit.”

Guard Ty Lawson, the Nuggets’ leading scorer, had four points and attempted just six shots in 34 minutes.

“He didn’t seem to get into it offensively,” coach Brian Shaw said. “He wasn’t aggressive. We called a few plays to get him going, but they sat on his right hand all night long and made it difficult for him to get into the paint.”

The Nuggets (18-24) trailed by three points at halftime and were down 80-76 after three quarters.

The Spurs put the game away early in the fourth. Duncan hit a layup, Leonard sank two 3-pointers, and forward Boris Diaw hit another as San Antonio opened the final period on an 11-2 run.

“We made some stops,” Parker said. “We were able to push it and get some easy stuff for threes or penetration. Our ball movement was even better in the fourth quarter.”

The Spurs built a 98-84 lead before a short Denver rally got it to 100-92 with 2:24 remaining. Two jumpers by Parker sealed it for San Antonio and added to the Nuggets’ frustration.

Denver had winning streaks of six and five this season but hasn’t sustained the momentum from those stretches.

“It’s more mindset than talent,” Lawson said. “It can’t be like that, especially in the West where you have to win 50 games to be in the playoffs.”

San Antonio began the game 3-for-16 from the field and trailed by eight early. The Spurs heated up in the second quarter, shooting better than 50 percent, and took a 51-48 lead at the half. Ginobili led San Antonio with 10 first-half points, and Faried led Denver with 13 points before the break.

NOTES: G Marco Belinelli (strained left groin) stayed in San Antonio for the Spurs’ two-game road trip. He missed his sixth game due to the injury. … The Nuggets assigned G Erick Green to the Fort Wayne Mad Hats of the NBA Development League. Green played in 14 games for Denver this season and averaged 3.3 points. … San Antonio assigned F Kyle Anderson to the Austin Spurs of the D-League. Anderson made eight starts in the 27 games he played for the Spurs this season, averaging 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds. … Nuggets F Danilo Gallinari (torn ligament in right knee) and C JaVale McGee (lower left leg strain) are getting closer to returning.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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