Spurs, Nuggets tangle in crucial Western showdown

Denver Nuggets coach George Karl said prior to his team's win over the Houston Rockets that he will start Wilson Chandler in place of injured forward Danilo Gallinari because he gives the staff the most trust and confidence.

Chandler didn't disappoint with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and looks to stay in good faith when the San Antonio Spurs invade the Pepsi Center Wednesday night. Chandler filled in nicely for Gallinari, who's out for the season with a torn knee ligament. He was one of seven players to score at least 10 points for the Nuggets, who were led by Corey Brewer's 22 points off the bench in Saturday's 132-114 victory over the Rockets.

Andre Iguodala delivered 18 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds, while Evan Fournier (17), Anthony Randolph (14), Kenneth Faried (13) and Andre Miller (11) all scored in double figures. Miller handed out 12 assists in the win, Denver's 20th in a row at home.

"We have a very deep team and we had a lot of players step up. Basically the whole team stepped up," Chandler said.

The Nuggets have won four in a row and are 19-2 in the last 21 games. They are 3 1/2 games behind the idle Oklahoma City Thunder for the Northwest Division lead and the second spot in the West standings.

Denver, which had a 39-21 advantage in the second quarter and scored 32 points off 19 Houston turnovers, is 35-3 at home and will close out a three-game residency Wednesday night. The 20 straight home wins matched the winning streak set by the 1984-85 squad from Jan.9-March 30. Before the Nuggets joined the NBA in 1976-77, they won 26 in a row at home in 1974-75.

The 1975-76 squad ripped off 28 wins in a row in the Rocky Mountains.

The 132 points the Nuggets dropped on the Rockets were a season high. Denver has won 38 of the last 39 home games when scoring 100 or more points and hasn't tasted defeat as the host since Jan. 18 versus Washington. Primarily known as a high-tempo team, the Nuggets scored a season-best 35 fastbreak points versus Houston.

After hosting the Spurs, Denver will visit Dallas on Friday for its fourth straight game against a Texas-based team (Mavs, Rockets, Spurs, Mavs).

San Antonio will try to put the brakes on a four-game road losing streak Wednesday and is 23-15 outside the Alamo City this season.

The Spurs had lost three of four games and bounced back with Saturday's 99-97 triumph versus the Atlanta Hawks. Tim Duncan tapped into the fountain of youth with 31 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, while Kawhi Leonard added 23 points for the Spurs, who are one-half game ahead of the Thunder for the Western Conference's top seed.

"Yeah, I have my shot back now. It feels good. It helps that it's going in too. I feel good all around," said Duncan, who is averaging 22.5 points and 11.4 rebounds over his last 10 contests.

Duncan has three 30-point games and eight double-doubles in that span.

Spurs guard Tony Parker missed the game with a sore neck/shins and is questionable against the Nuggets. Parker has missed time this season because of an ankle problem and leads the team with 20.6 ppg.

Leonard has scored 20-plus points in back-to-back games and is third on the team in scoring with 12.1 ppg. Duncan is second with 17.7 ppg.

Spurs guard Danny Green spoke to the media after a recent practice and talked about what the Spurs have to do for the stretch run.

"Definitely, definitely," Green said when asked if there was a sense of urgency with the regular season winding down. "We know there's only like five or six games left, something like that, playoffs are right around the corner. We want to be playing our best basketball and be as healthy as we possibly can be within the next week or two so that we're ready come playoff time. I think everybody has a sense of urgency right now."

Wednesday's showdown between the Spurs and Nuggets will have a playoff atmosphere and San Antonio leads the season series, 2-1. San Antonio is 9-3 in the past 12 matchups with Denver.

These two teams have split the last 10 meetings at the Pepsi Center.