The San Antonio Spurs nearly headed to Denver down, 0-2.

After squandering a 15-point fourth-quarter lead, the Spurs held on for a 97-88 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets last night to even the Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Manu Ginobili had eight points in the fourth quarter and Tim Duncan added seven points in the final 12 minutes to save the Spurs from losing two home games against sixth-seeded Denver.

Duncan led San Antonio with 22 points and five blocked shots. Tony Parker had 20 points and Ginobili had 17.

"Today, we were much more aggressive," Ginobili said.

Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Allen Iverson added 20 points.

In other games:

* At Cleveland, LeBron James had 27 points despite playing cautiously on a sprained left ankle and Drew Gooden scored 19 of his 24 points before halftime as the Cavaliers beat the Washington Wizards, 109-102, to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal.

Antawn Jamison had 31 points for the Wizards, who are without injured All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler.

* At Dallas, Jason Terry scored 28 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 23 as Mavericks beat Golden State, 112-99, evening their Western Conference quarterfinal at a game apiece.


* Rick Carlisle was fired after four seasons as coach of the Pacers, who failed to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Team president Larry Bird said Carlisle has an option to return to the team in another capacity.

Carlisle struggled to manage talented but volatile players. Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson were the two most prominent players in the 2004 brawl against Detroit Pistons fans.

* Clippers swingman Corey Maggette was scheduled to undergo an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee today. *