Tireless Iverson Leads Denver to 122-109 Win in DallasAfter playing all 48 minutes and scoring 51 points in a 114-107 loss versus the Lakers on Wednesday, Allen Iverson and his Denver Nuggets faced a tough back to back game at Dallas on Thursday. The Nuggets had lost 18 of their previous 19 games in Dallas, including five straight defeats, but Iverson produced 35 points, 12 assists and six steals as Denver cruised to a 122-109 win. This kind of game is sometimes referred to as a "scheduling loss" for the road team, although in this instance it should be noted that Dallas was also playing for the second time in two nights. Iverson's great performance--including 12-19 shooting from the field and 11-13 free throw shooting--helped the Nuggets to overcome a bad shooting night by Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 23 points but shot just 9-30 from the field. Dirk Nowitzki had perhaps his best game of the season, tying his season-high with 32 points and also contributing 12 rebounds and five assists. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, Josh Howard (20 points on 5-16 shooting), Devin Harris (12 points on 5-14 shooting) and Jason Terry (five points on 2-7 shooting) all shot very poorly; only Jerry Stackhouse (23 points on 8-14 shooting) provided much assistance for Nowitzki. Dallas also struggled mightily on defense, as all seven Nuggets who played at least 15 minutes shot better than .500 from the field.
Before the game, TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith critiqued Iverson's game by saying that even though he puts up decent assists numbers he does not really have a point guard mentality; they asserted that he compiles assists primarily because he has the ball so much but that he only passes out of necessity when all of his shooting options are exhausted. There is some validity to that point of view, although I think that it is more apt to say that about guys like Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis. While there is no doubt that Iverson has a shoot first mentality, he has also shown throughout his career that he is willing and able to not only pass out of necessity but to create scoring opportunities for his teammates provided that they are willing and able to step up and make shots. For instance, in game seven of the 2001 playoffs versus Toronto, Iverson had 16 assists to help lead the 76ers to an 88-87 victory; the flip side of that is that Iverson shot just 8-27 from the field in that game, lending credence to Barkley and Smith's assertion that Iverson only passes as a last resort.
However one defines or criticizes Iverson's game, there is no questioning his heart, determination and energy. I often tell people that Iverson is not the greatest basketball player I have ever seen (though he is of course an outstanding player) but he is the most amazing athlete I have ever watched in person: it is simply unbelievable that someone his size (he is generously listed at NBA.com as 6-0, 180) can not only survive in a league in which the average player is roughly 6-7, 230 but that he can perform at such a high level. Iverson is now adding a third dimension to his greatness, because he has to overcome not only his lack of height and bulk but also the inevitable wear and tear that goes along with being a 32 year old guard who has logged nearly 32,000 regular season minutes.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:18 AM