With one of the Spurs' stars out and another just returning from a four-game absence, the team's supporting cast became the guardian of the only perfect home record in the Western Conference on Saturday night in San Antonio.
They proved themselves equal to the task. Michael Finley and Fabricio Oberto each scored a season high 21 points to help the NBA champions beat the Denver Nuggets 102-91 and improve to 13-0 at home.
"Their role players beat us as much as anyone else," said Karl. "From (Brent) Barry to Finley to Oberto, they beat us as much as (Manu) Ginobili or (Tim) Duncan did."
Allen Iverson led the Nuggets with 30 points and Linas Kleiza had 16 points. Carmelo Anthony added 15 points and nine rebounds.
The Nuggets were without starter Kenyon Martin, who was suspended for one game after he was assessed a flagrant foul in the Nuggets' win Wednesday over New Orleans.
Oberto, who was 10-of-11 from the field, also had 13 rebounds for the Spurs.
"He had a great game, He usually doesn't go for numbers like that," said Marcus Camby, who had just four points and six rebounds for Denver. "We were so small with K-Mart being suspended, he (Oberto) was being played by a 6-7, 6-8 guy most of the night."
The Spurs, who had lost two in a row, saw the return of Duncan, who missed four games with a sprained right ankle.
"It was great to have him back," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "Just having him on the court is a confidence builder for everybody."
Duncan, who had eight points in his return, said he wasn't yet "100 percent, but pretty close."
But Tony Parker sat out his second straight game for the Spurs with a sprained left ankle.
The Nuggets were up by nine early, but started to lose their offensive rhythm in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Spurs were moving the ball and finding open shots.
"We were in the basketball game," said Iverson, who said Martin's absence was a huge factor. "So we had our opportunities. But it just fell apart."
SIXERS 92, CAVALIERS 86: At Cleveland, Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala scored 20 points apiece to lead the Philadelphia 76ers over the slumping Cleveland Cavaliers. After Damon Jones' 3-pointer gave the Cavaliers a 75-74 lead with 7:57 to play, four points by Iguodala, including a 3, and baskets by Miller and Samuel Dalembert provided an 8-0 run that gave Philadelphia the lead for good. Iguolada later added a key three-point play. Dalembert scored 16 for the 76ers, who have won five of six.
PACERS 106, HEAT 103: At Miami, Jamaal Tinsley scored 26 points, Jermaine O'Neal started a crucial fourth-quarter run with three straight baskets and Indiana extended its dominance of Miami. Jermaine O'Neal finished with 24 points and Danny Granger added 16 for Indiana, which started the final period on a 14-4 run to take control and has now won 18 of the past 22 regular-season meetings with Miami. Dwyane Wade finished with 24 points, but his potentially game-tying 3-pointer bounced off the rim as time expired.
MAVERICKS 96, ROCKETS 83: At Houston, Josh Howard scored 23 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 20 as Dallas won for the 10th time in the last 11 meetings with Houston. Jerry Stackhouse had 17 points for the Mavs, who've won six straight meetings. That includes a 100-94 victory on Nov. 21, a game the Rockets led by 17 in the third quarter before the Mavs rallied. Dallas won more conventionally this time, blowing open a close game with a 26-9 run bridging the third and fourth quarters.
HORNETS 101, SUNS 98: At New Orleans, Chris Paul had 21 points and 10 assists, outplaying Steve Nash and lifting New Orleans over Phoenix. Accurate perimeter shooting was the difference for the Hornets, who hit 12 3-pointers. Paul made three, the last putting New Orleans ahead for good midway through the fourth quarter after the Suns had erased a 16-point deficit to briefly take a lead of their own.
BUCKS 95 TIMBERWOLVES 92: At Milwaukee, Michael Redd scored 32 points and made two pressure free throws late to help Milwaukee hold off Minnesota. Yi Jianlian, the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, had a career-high 22 points and Mo Williams added 19 for Milwaukee which extended Minnesota's losing streak to four games. Craig Smith scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Al Jefferson had 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have lost nine of the last 10 road games.
KNICKS 94, NETS 86: At New York, Eddy Curry scored 23 points, a night after hitting rock bottom during a scoring slump, and the Knicks snapped a five-game losing streak. Jamal Crawford led New York with 32 points. Zach Randolph added 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Knicks, who had fallen into a tie for last place in the Eastern Conference.
GRIZZLIES 123, MAGIC 119: At Orlando, Fla., Rudy Gay scored a career-high 32 points and Juan Carlos Navarro added 25 to help Memphis snap a six-game losing streak. Mike Miller scored 19 points for the Grizzlies, who shot 53 percent from the field, most of it from perimeter. Memphis hit 12 3-pointers, including two clutch ones from Navarro in the final 3 minutes.
WIZARDS 92, KINGS 79: At Washington, DeShawn Stevenson had 19 points, including five 3-pointers, to lead the short-handed Wizards. Rookie Nick Young made his first NBA start, but he was pulled after five minutes in favor of Roger Mason, who scored 13 points 10 in the first half to help the Wizards win their fourth straight. Brendan Haywood had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Washington.
HAWKS 93, BOBCATS 84: At Atlanta, Joe Johnson scored 31 points, Marvin Williams had 20 and the Hawks handed Charlotte its eighth road loss in nine games. Hawks sixth man Josh Childress (groin) and rookie point guard Acie Law (sore knee) were not in uniform. Josh Smith had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Anthony Johnson added 11 for Atlanta, which ended a two-game losing streak.