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Friday, December 29, 2006

Iverson Drops 44, Karl Gets 800th Career Win

Allen Iverson scored 44 points and had 10 assists as Denver cruised to a 112-98 win over Seattle, the 800th victory of George Karl's coaching career. Iverson now has 77 40-point games in his career, which ties him with Oscar Robertson for fourth all-time behind Wilt Chamberlain (271), Michael Jordan (173) and Elgin Baylor (88). Both teams were missing key players--Carmelo Anthony (suspension), J.R. Smith (suspension) and Marcus Camby (injury) did not play for the Nuggets and Ray Allen (birth of his child) and Rashard Lewis (injury) did not play for the Sonics. Earl Boykins (24 points) was the only other Nugget to score in double figures. Damien Wilkins led the Sonics with 26 points.

Iverson got off to a quick start with 12 points and six assists in the first quarter, directly accounting for most of Denver's points as the Nuggets outscored the Sonics 35-27. He sat out for about four minutes in the second quarter but Denver still led 49-43 when he returned. Iverson scored 11 points and had one assist in the period and Denver led 60-56 at halftime. Boykins had 11 first half points, while Wilkins almost singlehandedly kept the game close with his 19 points.

The Nuggets pulled away in the first few minutes of the third quarter as Iverson scored six points in a 10-3 run. Reserve guard Mike Wilks played good defense on Iverson for the next few minutes and Seattle cut the lead from 70-59 to 77-74, but the Sonics fell apart in the last :38 of the period, giving up six points to Boykins on three free throws and a three point shot (assisted by Iverson). One of the free throws came after the ejection of Chris Wilcox, Seattle's leading rebounder in the game (seven). The Sonics never recovered from that sequence and trailed by double digits most of the fourth quarter.

Iverson has now played three games since the 76ers traded him to the Nuggets. He is averaging 31.3 ppg and 11 apg so far and the Nuggets are 2-1. In Iverson's first two games with the Nuggets he had 22 points and 10 assists in a 101-96 loss to the Sacramento Kings and then increased those numbers to 28 points and 13 assists in a 113-105 win over Boston Celtics.

It should not surprise anyone that Iverson is producing so many assists. He ranked eighth in the league last year (7.4 apg), has averaged over 6 apg during his career and in his MVP year (2001) Iverson had 16 assists in a game seven playoff win versus the Toronto Raptors. Iverson shoots a lot but he is also a highly gifted passer. His problem, similar to one that Kobe Bryant has faced in recent seasons, is that in order to get an assist your teammates have to make the shot after you deliver the pass. Even with several of their big guns out the Nuggets have more weapons than the woeful Sixers do and that is why Iverson's assist totals are going up.

One note of caution, though: Iverson's first three games as a Nugget have been against terrible teams. That takes nothing away from his individual excellence but we still don't know how this Denver team will do against the elite teams in the league. As TNT's Charles Barkley noted several times, the Nuggets rank close to the bottom of the NBA in defense and that is not a recipe for winning a championship.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:05 AM

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