Finley sets Spurs record to help close out series with Nuggets

SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs don't have to go back to Denver. They're headed to the Western Conference semifinals.

With Michael Finley leading the way from behind the 3-point line, the Spurs beat the Denver Nuggets 93-78 on Wednesday night to win their first-round series in five games.

Elias Says

Michael Finley
Michael Finley was 8-for-9 from 3-point range in the Spurs win. That ties the NBA "record" for most 3-pointers made in a game for a player on a team which eliminated an opponent from a playoff series. Paul Pierce set the record when he made eight shots beyond the arc for the Celtics against the 76ers in 2002.

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After losing the opening game at home, the Spurs won four straight, ensuring themselves of at least a few days' rest before the second round gets under way against the winner of the Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns series.

Finley set a San Antonio playoff record with eight 3-pointers and finished with 26 points.

"He was fantastic. He came out and served it up well. And he just kept shooting," said Robert Horry, who hit a big 3 late in the Spurs' Game 4 victory. "That's the one thing about it ... once you get hot, keep shooting until you miss, and he didn't miss."

It was also a career-best in 3s for Finley, who went 8-of-9 from 3-point range.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called Finley's performance "ridiculous."

"To be realistic, my career is coming to an end in a couple of years or so. So I'm enjoying the moment," said the 34-year-old Finley, who signed with the Spurs in September 2005 and is in his 12th NBA season. "I'm blessed to be playing with some tremendous basketball players, guys like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. Those guys attract a lot of attention and I'm just out there doing my job and knocking down shots off of things they create for me."

Tim Duncan had 23 points and 12 rebounds and Tony Parker added 16 points and 10 assists for the third-seeded Spurs, who had a virtual repeat of 2005, when they lost Game 1 at home before winning the next four to eliminate Denver.

"It turned out that way with the series being over 4-1, but as for the level of play, I can't really say they're a better team than us," Denver's Marcus Camby said. "Each game was close and could have been flip-flopped to our advantage. I still feel confident in our team and what we can build here."

Allen Iverson struggled from the field for his fourth straight game for the Nuggets after scoring 31 points in Game 1. He was 6-of-22 from the field and had 21 points Wednesday, 10 in the fourth quarter.

Sixth-seeded Denver traded for Iverson in December to create an All-Star duo with Carmelo Anthony.

"I felt like this was the worst playoff series that I've played in my career," Iverson said. "It was kind of frustrating -- coming into a new situation, wanting to be the one that gets this team over the hump, get them out of the first round. And to play like I'm not capable of playing is just frustrating.

"They were a better team than us this series," Iverson said. "We tried to stay in the game. They showed why they were a championship-caliber team."

Denver scored 30 points in the second half -- 11 in the third quarter.

"I thought the 11 points in the third quarter just kind of put a heavy weight on our shoulders," Denver coach George Karl said. "When the dam broke, it broke hard."

Anthony had 21 points, while Steve Blake had 12 and Nene added 10. Camby, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, had 19 rebounds.

Denver has not won a playoff series since 1994, when they beat Seattle in a best-of-five to become the first No. 8 seed to knock out a No. 1.

The Spurs finished 10-for-21 from beyond the arc led by Finley, who came into Game 5 shooting nearly 41 percent from 3-point range during the playoffs, up from 36 percent during the regular season.

"The last two 3s, I think he didn't even looked at the rim. He caught it and let it fly with Carmelo on top of him," Ginobili said. "It was unbelievable. He was really feeling it."

Iverson missed his first six shots Wednesday. His first field goal came with 8:50 left in the second quarter and it brought the Nuggets within 30-25.

Duncan gave the Spurs a 37-27 lead when he drove to the basket for a dunk with 6:38 left in the half.

Denver chipped away at the deficit and Blake hit a 3-pointer with 31.9 seconds left to give Denver a 45-44 lead. After Robert Horry missed a 3 at the other end for the Spurs, Blake hit another 3 off a pass from Iverson, who had six assists in the half, just as the quarter ended to put Denver up 48-44.

The Spurs opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run sparked by Finley's fourth 3 of the game.

After a slew of misses on both sides, Iverson's three-point play gave Denver a one-point lead. It was their last of the night as Francisco Elson hit the go-ahead dunk with 6:21 left in the third.

Denver's frustration was evident as Anthony was called for a personal foul for pushing Ginobili, who didn't have the ball. On Denver's next possession he turned the ball over and ran back down the court shaking his head.

Finley's fifth 3 with 1:30 left in the third put San Antonio up 61-55, and they went into the final 12 minutes up 63-59.

Horry, who sealed Game 4 for San Antonio on Monday in Denver off a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left, hit a 3 to open the fourth quarter and his dunk with 9:43 left gave the Spurs a 70-61 lead.

Finley hit his sixth 3 with just over nine minutes to go and his seventh came halfway through the fourth quarter as the Spurs took an 82-71 lead. His last 3 came with about 2 1/2 minutes left to make it 89-76.

Game notes
Nuggets G Anthony Carter saw his first action of the playoffs on Wednesday. He had eight points in almost 14 minutes. ... Denver didn't score 100 points in any playoff game. The Nuggets scored 100 or more 56 times during the regular season and went 3-23 when they didn't hit 100. ... The Spurs had 25 assists to the Nuggets' 16. ... Popovich and Karl shared a handshake and a hug after the game. ... The Spurs' biggest lead was 17 points. ... Three players hold the playoff record with nine 3-pointers: Ray Allen, Vince Carter and Rex Chapman.