Iverson revealed after the game that the reason he had missed all of the Nuggets' workouts this week was because his 4-year-old son, Isaiah, fell face-first from a stool early Monday morning and required plastic surgery.
"He got a big gash up under his mouth," Iverson said. "He was sitting on a stool and what really messed him up was he had his hands in his shirt. And it was a high stool, so when he fell, he couldn't brace it. So he just (smacked the floor)."
Iverson said it was a bloody scene but the toughest part was watching his young son sedated for surgery, "and I was just mentally out of it, man."
Iverson said his son will have to undergo a series of procedures over the next week but that he's back to being his usual rambunctious self -- which took a load off Iverson's shoulders, allowing him to concentrate for a few hours on beating the defending NBA champions who knocked the Nuggets out of the playoffs last year.
"I mean, when he's around the house screaming and yelling like he usually does, then I'm pretty sure he'll be all right," Iverson said. "That was my biggest thing once he started acting like himself again. He's real loud, man."
While Iverson was doing the dirty work offensively, the Nuggets' big men -- Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, Nene and Eduardo Najera -- throttled Tim Duncan, who scored 20 points but missed 13 of 20 shots and turned the ball over four times, including a crucial one in the closing seconds.
Anthony Carter, whose 3-pointer pulled the Nuggets to 77-76, stripped Duncan, then fed Martin at the other end for the bucket that gave the Nuggets a 78-77 lead with 45 seconds left.
"He made big plays," Iverson said of Carter. "Everybody talks about 'Melo and myself when it comes to this team, but so many other guys can do things."
"I had a rough shooting day up until that point," said Martin, who was 1-for-7 before his big basket, and had a career-high seven blocks, none bigger than his last.
After he put the Nuggets ahead, Martin, who had missed four of five games since straining his right hamstring last month, rejected Tony Parker at the other end, and Iverson sank two free throws with 6.6 seconds left.
After a timeout, Martin had one more defensive gem in him, altering Michael Finley's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied it.
"Kenyon switched out onto Michael and made it a real difficult shot," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It was a good read by Kenyon to switch. Otherwise, Michael would have been open in the corner."
Finley finished with 18 points. Duncan and Parker each had 20.
The Spurs were without Manu Ginobili (finger) for the fourth game in a row, and they sorely missed his offense along with Duncan's usual shooting touch.
"They were very physical and I expect that from Denver. I thought they played it the right way. It was frustrating," Duncan said. "A lot of extra fouls here and there. But it wasn't that. It came down to us turning the ball over in rotations. A lot of it down the stretch was my fault. I'll take a lot of responsibility for it."
Duncan missed 14 of his first 18 shots but banked one in, sank a layup and made one underneath to give the Spurs a 75-73 lead with 2½ minutes remaining. Still, he was kicking himself for two late turnovers.
The Nuggets' point total was a low for the season, as was their opponents'. But for once, it was the Nuggets who seized control down the stretch, improving to 3-8 in games they fail to score 100 points.
Carmelo Anthony, who scored 17 points, said the Nuggets' emphasis on defense is finally paying off, and his coach, George Karl, agreed.
"We beat a very good team in their type of game," Karl said. "Defensively, we're actually stronger than offensively right now. It's strange to say, but ... that's good, because the foundation of specialness usually is at the defensive end."
- Martin's previous career high for blocks was six, most recently at Chicago on April 11, 2003.
- G DerMarr Johnson, who played the past three seasons in Denver, returned with the Spurs and scored two points.
- Camby pulled down 18 boards, the 10th time he's recorded at least 18 rebounds this season. The Nuggets are 7-3 in those games. He also scored his 7,000th career point.