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Finley hits eight 3-pointers as Spurs eliminate Nuggets

May 3, 2007 - 5:31 AM SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- When the San Antonio Spurs wanted to close out the Denver Nuggets, they looked to sharpshooter Michael Finley.

Finley scored 26 points, including a team playoff-record eight 3-pointers, as the Spurs beat the Nuggets, 93-78, in Game Five Wednesday to advance to the Western Conference semifinals.

Tim Duncan had 23 points and 12 rebounds and Tony Parker added 16 points and 10 assists for San Antonio, which won its eighth straight first-round series and beat the Nuggets four straight after losing in Game One.

"Obviously, we're thrilled with the win against a very good basketball team that is very, very difficult to guard for a lot of reasons," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Leading, 63-59, to start the fourth quarter, Finley went 3-of-3 from the arc in the final period to help the Spurs win the game by double digits.

"Finley was ridiculous," Popovich said. "Throughout the game, he was fantastic. With Tim getting that much attention, we need guys to step up and make shots, and, he did."

The 34-year old swingman's first 3-pointer in the period put San Antonio up, 73-63, with 9:10 left.

Finley, who shot 9-of-14 from the field and 8-of-9 from 3-point range, made his second one off an assist from Duncan to give the Spurs an 82-71 advantage with 6:03 remaining.

"Michael got his shot and we kind of worked the ball to him," Duncan said. "It's not like we were pinpointing him, but he got his shots within the offense. Towards the end, he hit some big ones for us that helped stretch the lead."

The 12-year veteran's final shot from the arc gave San Antonio a commanding 89-76 lead with only 2:32 left.

"If Michael's in the gym and the ball's in his hands, we want him to shoot," Popovich said. "We'd rather have me talk to him about a bad shot than not taking a shot, and I can't remember the last time I talked to him about a bad shot. So, he's been great in that regard."

The Spurs will face the second-seeded Phoenix Suns in the next round. The Suns eliminated the Lakers, 119-110, in Game Five Wednesday.

"It helps to be able to change gears and have a few days' rest," said Duncan on facing a new team in the second round of the playoffs. "It's going to be an absolutely different team playing a different style of basketball. We're going to take some time to watch film and understand the type of team we'll be facing."

San Antonio took a 25-21 lead into the second period. Finley had nine first-quarter points and Duncan added five.

"Coach told me to go out there and play," Finley said. "I let the game come to me and stopped putting so much added pressure on myself."

Denver was only four points back despite shooting just 39 percent in the initial period. Carmelo Anthony had eight points but Allen Iverson went 0-of-4 from the floor and began the game by missing his first six shots.

In the second quarter, however, Steve Blake nailed three of his four first-half 3-pointers to help the Nuggets take a 48-44 lead into the intermission.

Anthony had six points and Iverson and Nene each had four as Denver closed the half on a 17-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Blake with 0.8 seconds left.

The Spurs held the Nuggets to just 11 points in the third quarter, allowing Denver only five field goals. Finley had eight points and Duncan added seven in the period for San Antonio.

"Offensively, we struggled and that lands on everybody's head, the players and the coaching staff," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "We didn't have enough good shots tonight to win. We saw a great team defend at a great level. Somewhere along the way, we lost our confidence and didn't have enough energy."

Anthony and Iverson finished with 21 points apiece for the Nuggets, who were eliminated in the first round for the fourth straight season.

"We played hard but there's no need for us to have our heads down, except for losing the series," Anthony said. "We played extremely hard, and I tip my hat to our guys for that."

In Denver's final three losses, Iverson shot only 33 percent (22-of-67) from the field, including just 6-of-22 on Wednesday.

"I would probably call this the worst series of my career," Iverson said. "Stepping into a new situation and wanting to be that factor that gets this team over the hump and past the first round of the playoffs makes that very frustrating. Not playing as well as I'm capable of playing, I would say that is very frustrating."

    DENVER 78

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    DENVER 59

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