Playing without Anthony for 15 games and J.R. Smith for 10 due to suspensions for their part in a brawl with New York on Dec. 16, the Nuggets (20-17) figured to struggle without their two leading scorers.
Teaming Iverson with Anthony was viewed as a risky proposition since both players have always been their club’s top option on offense. Still, the combination of Anthony, the NBA scoring leader with 31.6 points per game, and Iverson—third with 29.5 points—should make the Nuggets one of the league’s most interesting teams.
During his suspension, Anthony practiced with the Nuggets and often returned to the Pepsi Center’s practice court at night for individual workouts.
“I think it’s going to take some time to get a rhythm for everybody when I come back,” Anthony said. “We all got to make an adjustment. It’s going to take a couple of games.”
In Anthony’s absence, the Nuggets had no choice but to defer solely to Iverson, who is averaging 27.7 points in 14 games with his new team. Now that Anthony is back, coach George Karl must find a way to keep both players happy.
“They are both great offensive players,” Karl said. “I’m not into this (notion) that it won’t work. I think great players like to play with great players. Sometimes it’s not as perfect and fluid as the San Antonio Spurs or teams like that. But normally in time you can figure that if they will cooperate and move the ball and pass the ball, good stuff will happen.”
Although it went 7-8 without Anthony, Denver is second in the Northwest Division and only five games behind Utah. With Iverson, Anthony, Smith, newly acquired Steve Blake and Marcus Camby playing well, Iverson thinks the Nuggets can advance deep in the playoffs.
“For me, at this stage of my career, it’s just championships. That’s all I think about,” Iverson said. “Regardless of where we’re seeded, we get in a seven-game series with somebody, it’s going to be hard for somebody to beat us four times.”
Iverson helped the Nuggets to their third straight win Saturday, scoring 36 points, including a running 3-pointer in overtime, in a 121-113 victory at Houston.
Camby added 12 points and 22 rebounds, while Smith scored 24 for Denver, which has lost five of seven at home.
Blake, acquired from Milwaukee last week, has played well in four games with the Nuggets, averaging 14.0 points and 4.7 assists while shooting 59.0 percent from 3-point range.
Memphis (10-31) owns the league’s worst record, but now knows it is capable of winning a road game against the Nuggets. The Grizzlies had lost 17 straight in Denver before a 108-96 victory on Nov. 28, their first win there since Nov. 18, 1997.
Outscored by 27 in the second quarter, Memphis never recovered Saturday in a 112-91 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Pau Gasol scored 27 for the Grizzlies, who have lost nine straight on the road and are 2-18 away from home this season.
“We had a really bad second quarter,” Gasol said. “We fell apart. We were a little selfish and our intensity went down. Unfortunately, we’re not good enough to afford this kind of breakdown.”
Memphis has allowed 100 or more points in a franchise-record 17 consecutive games.