One night after Iverson had his best game since being acquired, the Nuggets look to take advantage of the injury-riddled New Orleans Hornets on Friday at Oklahoma City.
Iverson scored 44 points and added 10 assists Thursday to help Denver (16-10) to a 112-98 win over Seattle, giving coach George Karl his 800th career victory. Karl became the 12th coach to reach 800 wins, doing so in 19 seasons.
“To be a part of something like that is something to cherish,” Iverson said. “It was an honor to help him get that win.”
Iverson’s point total was his second-highest of the season, two shy of his 46-point performance against Chicago on Nov. 14 with Philadelphia.
“He’s good,” Karl said. “He’s better than I thought and I thought he was (darn) good.”
The point guard is averaging 31.2 points, less than one point behind league leader and teammate Carmelo Anthony.
Iverson has double-doubles in all three games since joining Denver via trade from Philadelphia on Dec. 19, totaling 94 points and 30 assists. The former MVP’s arrival in Denver has stabilized a lineup that will not have Anthony for another 11 games as he continues to serve his 15-game suspension for his involvement in a brawl with New York on Dec. 16.
Shooting guard J.R. Smith—who averages 16.7 points—has six games left on his ban.
In their absence, Earl Boykins might be benefiting most from the addition of Iverson. The 5-5 guard, who had 24 points Thursday, has averaged 25.7 points since Iverson’s arrival after averaging only 11.7 points before the trade.
“There’s not a whole bunch of pressure,” Iverson said of being short-handed. “I just feel like all of us are going to have to do it together. It’s going to be a team effort.”
Denver is looking for its fourth straight road win over New Orleans and seventh in the last eight overall versus the Hornets.
The Hornets (11-17) lost 100-85 at Portland on Wednesday in their first game without star point guard Chris Paul, who is out indefinitely after spraining his right ankle in Tuesday’s loss to Seattle.
“I’m hoping the guys are tired of hearing about great effort,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “Let’s get a win. We need to continue focusing. We are short-handed, and our efforts need to be at an all-time high.”
Scott’s frustrations stem from a rash of injuries that have contributed to the Hornets averaging just 86.4 points while losing 14 of their last 17 games. They are scoring a league-low 90.3 points per game.
The latest injury to Paul could be the most severe since the 2006 NBA rookie of the year leads the team with 18.4 points and 9.0 assists per game.
“With Chris out there, guys know they’re going to get wide open shots, so mentally when you know you’ve got a guy like that you can prepare for shots and have more confidence in knocking them down,” Hornets guard Jannero Pargo said. “With him out, guys didn’t really know what to expect tonight.”
Scott started Pargo and Desmond Mason in the backcourt Wednesday, and they responded with a combined 32 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.