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Updated: Friday, February 7, 2003 2:29 AM EST
NBA RECAP
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San Antonio 83, Denver 74
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
San Antonio Spurs
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DENVER NUGGETS
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DENVER (Ticker) -- Tony Parker is ready for All-Star Weekend.

Parker scored 19 of his 23 points in the third quarter as the San Antonio Spurs extended their winning streak to a season-high five games with a sloppy 83-74 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

In his second season, Parker is one of the NBA's most improved players and has been invited to participate in the Rookie Challenge and Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend.

But before embarking on his trip to Atlanta, the 6-2 point guard had his way with the woeful Nuggets, matching their point total in the third quarter, when the Spurs opened a 68-51 lead.

"He's been doing a fine job for us all year and he just seems to get more and more confident as he goes, and that's good for us because he's real important for our success," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "When he plays well, we have a chance of winning. He's important."

Tim Duncan added 25 points and eight rebounds for San Antonio, which overcame 22 turnovers and forced 22.

"Huge for us to get this one, especially with a bunch of guys going down," Duncan said. "It was good to finish good going into the All-Star break."

San Antonio improved to 5-1 on a season-high nine-game road trip. The latest win came without center David Robinson (hip) and guard Stepen Jackson, who suffered a sprained ankle in the first half.

Held to four points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first half, Parker started his scoring barrage with a jumper 46 seconds into the third quarter.

After making an eight-footer to give his team a double-digit lead, Parker scored the Spurs' next 11 points, capped by a jumper for a 57-42 advantage with 5:50 left in the third quarter.

Parker nailed two 3-pointers, went 6-of-8 from the field and converted five foul shots in the quarter. He finished 7-of-14 from the floor and also handed eight assists.

Duncan, a perennial All-Star, dominated inside against the overmatched Nuggets and his dunk 46 seconds into the fourth quarter gave the Spurs their biggest lead, 70-51. Duncan went 10-of-16 from the field and added five assists.

Malik Rose also contributed 13 points for the Spurs, who shot 46 percent (31-of-68) and held a 39-38 rebounding edge.

Denver, which upset San Antonio at home earlier this season, tried to make things interesting in the fourth quarter.

A pair of foul shots by Chris Whitney pulled the Nuggets within eight points with 4:13 to go, but Steve Smith answered with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession for a 78-67 lead. San Antonio led by at least six points thereafter.

Juwan Howard had 23 points and 11 rebounds and rookie Nene Hilario scored 14 points for the Nuggets, who shot 40 percent (30-of-75) and were a woeful 1-of-13 from 3-point range.

"It is a given that we play hard, but I told them we need to be concerned about the little things," Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "For example, on the fast break we stopped and threw the ball away instead of continuing to the basket. We failed to set a screen on an out-of-bounds play.

"You can pin it on me or you can pin it on youth, but it is plain and simple, we are just not getting it done. Nobody can contest our heart and compassion, but we need to play hard all the time."

The Nuggets struggled offensively all night, going scoreless for a nearly five-minute stretch in the second quarter as the Spurs opened a 33-19 lead on Bruce Bowen's basket with 6:05 left in the first half.

San Antonio settled for a 40-32 lead at the break behind 14 points from Duncan.


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