SAN ANTONIO (AP) – The San Antonio Spurs celebrated last season’s success and started their title defense.

Tony Parker scored 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and newcomer Michael Finley added 11 points in the period for the Spurs, who defeated Denver 102-91 in the opening game for both teams Tuesday night.

Before the game, San Antonio unveiled its third championship banner in the rafters of the SBC Center, and NBA commissioner David Stern was on hand for the team’s returning players to receive their diamond-studded title rings.

San Antonio trailed most of the second half until Finley hit a 19-footer to put the Spurs up 79-78 with about nine minutes remaining in the game.

Finley, who finished with 16 points, then hit another jumper followed by a 3-pointer.

The Spurs went 13-for-16 from the field in the fourth quarter.

Tim Duncan had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs and Manu Ginobili added 10 points.

Carmelo Anthony led Denver with 23 points, while Kenyon Martin added 19. Eduardo Najera scored 14 and Earl Boykins 13.

The Nuggets, who were eliminated in five games by the Spurs last spring in the first round of the playoffs, were without head coach George Karl. He is serving a two-game suspension for making improper contact with a prospect over the summer. Assistant coach Scott Brooks took Karl’s place on the Denver bench.

And for most of the game, they were also without key reserve Nene, who left in the first quarter with a leg injury.

Duncan, who scored eight straight points midway through the first period, stole the ball from Nene under the Nuggets’ basket and then made a layup at the other end to give San Antonio its first lead at 20-19.

Nene hobbled off the floor after the play with what the team described as a sprained right anterior cruciate ligament. He did not return.

Down by six after one quarter, Denver took a 30-29 lead on a 3-point play by Najera early in the second. Boykins scored nine of his 11 first-half points in the period on 4-for-5 shooting. The Nuggets took a 48-46 lead at the break on a tip-in by Marcus Camby with 36 seconds left.

Notes: Both Denver and San Antonio are now in their 30th season as NBA franchises. They were accepted into the league in June 1976, along with Indiana and New Jersey. … Because of the suspension, Karl will also miss Wednesday night’s home opener against the Los Angeles Lakers. He can return to the bench in Denver for Friday’s contest against Portland. … Denver missed all seven of its 3-pointers, while the Spurs went 4-for-13 behind the arc. … San Antonio is 9-0 on opening night since Duncan has been with the team.

AP-ES-11-01-05 2310EST


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