Archive for Thursday, March 22, 2007

Iverson, Anthony finally getting it together

March 22, 2007


— There's no question that this melding took a lot longer than anyone in the Rocky Mountain State expected.

Still, if Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony have indeed gotten things together, and the Denver Nuggets' five-game winning streak seems to suggest that, now is the ideal time to have it happen.

"When you win five games in a row, you get that kind of swagger about you," Iverson said after getting 20 points and five assists in the Nuggets' 94-90 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night. "You feel that you can't be beat, and that's the way we've got to approach games regardless of who we are playing."

The question that's going to be answered is whether the melding of Iverson and Anthony has come too late to extend the Nuggets' playoff life longer than one series.

With 18 games remaining, it would take a major miracle for Denver (34-31) to catch the Utah Jazz (44-23) atop the Northwest Division.

In fact, the way the Western Conference stands, it is unlikely that Nuggets will finish any higher than the sixth seed.

That means Denver is all but locked in to a first-round matchup against Dallas, Phoenix or San Antonio.

When push comes to shove, I'm not picking Denver in a series against the Mavericks, Suns or Spurs. But if Anthony and Iverson have reached a complementary balance, you have to at least think about a puncher's chance - and that's something you wouldn't have done as recently as 12 days ago when the Nuggets were coming off back-to-back losses to Golden State and Detroit.

Since then, however, Denver has beaten Sacramento, Portland, the Lakers, Phoenix and now New Jersey to match its season-high winning streak.

If nothing else, the recent success has given Iverson back that confidence he demonstrated for a decade with the Sixers.

"No matter who we are playing against, we have to feel that we are the better team and execute what we do in practice," he said. "I feel like we can be as good as we want to be.

"With this team, you get us in a seven-game series, you've got to beat us four times. That's the way I look at it."

Let's be honest, this is the first time the Nuggets have shown any kind of hint at potentially being a contender since they acquired the electric Iverson from the Sixers on Dec. 19.

Certainly there were extenuating circumstances, the biggest being Anthony missing the first 14 games of Iverson's Denver career while serving a league suspension.

Still, going into Tuesday night, Denver was 19-22 since the trade, and Iverson and Anthony were only 9-9 in the 18 games they had played together.

It's not a stretch to say more was expected after Denver surrendered veteran point guard Andre Miller, two first-round draft picks and the expiring contract of forward Joe Smith to the Sixers for Iverson, who has $40 million coming to him over the next two seasons.

"I didn't think it would take this long," Iverson said, "but it's been a difficult situation. It's not just the chemistry with me and 'Melo, but the chemistry with everybody else as well.

"They had to get used to playing with me and then they had to get used to playing with me and 'Melo together. Obviously, winning five games in a row is much better. I think our chemistry is much better because we've had some practices together and been able to have some games with our whole squad together."

Things seem to definitely be on the upswing for Iverson and the Nuggets.

The win against the Nets was their first all season when they didn't score at least 100 points.

"I think we're making those small steps," coach George Karl said. "I think we have time to make one or two more. If we do that, we can be dangerous in the playoffs.

"I'm not ready to say we're out of the woods because I don't think we are, but I think we've stabilized."

This might come as a shock to many of those who questioned Iverson's leadership during his decade as a Sixer, but Karl says he has grabbed hold of the leader's mantle with the Nuggets.


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