Chris Webber added 32 points and 15 rebounds, none bigger than the one in the final minute that set up Iverson’s winning shot.
After Webber grabbed Earl Watson’s miss from long range, the Sixers called a timeout with 21 seconds left. Iverson took the inbounds pass and stalled at midcourt until driving on Andre Miller, then pulling up and sinking the basket from the top of the key with 4.2 seconds remaining.
“I was surprised that they just let me wind the clock down and take a shot,” Iverson said. “I told my teammates that I was going to wind it down. … I was hoping if I did miss, the ball would bounce and the time would run out.”
Miller insisted he wanted Iverson, who was hobbled by a sprained ankle he twisted in the third quarter, to take a jump shot rather than drive to the basket.
“I got a hand up on the shot. He knocked the shot down. It was a good play,” Miller said.
The 76ers, on the other hand, weren’t about to let Anthony get a good look at the end.
“You don’t want somebody shooting that had been making a lot of shots,” Iverson said.
So, after two timeouts, Anthony took the inbounds but couldn’t get a good look with Andre Iguodala and Webber in his face, so he dished to Watson, whose open 3-pointer was short, bouncing off the rim at the buzzer.
“There was no way I could have taken the final shot tonight,” Anthony said. “They had three people right there, and Earl Watson was wide open.”
For the second time in the final 28 seconds, no less.
“Great player made a shot; we missed two wide-open 3s,” Denver coach George Karl lamented when asked to sum up the final possessions.
Iverson sprained his right ankle five minutes into the second half. He was taped up and stayed but had to alter his game a little.
“I was struggling,” Iverson said. “I couldn’t really go to the basket as quick as I wanted to. When I did it was real painful.”
The 76ers’ already big height advantage was augmented when Kenyon Martin (thigh) couldn’t go and Marcus Camby (finger) sat out the final 42 minutes. With Nene (knee) out for the year, all three of the Nuggets’ big men were out.
“It is getting old,” Anthony said. “I hope we have everybody out there as soon as possible. Playing with a 6-4 lineup is tough.”
The one thing Karl was worried about with his small lineup was rebounding, and the 76ers outrebounded them 46-35.
“And it wasn’t necessarily because they were bigger. I just think, sometimes our rebounding habits we rely so much on Marcus that we forget about doing our responsibilities,” Karl said. “It’s usually better to watch film than make that criticism, but I thought there were some balls that bounced on the ground.”
Anthony, whose previous career high was 42 on Dec. 13 at Charlotte, scored 19 points in the third quarter, which ended in an 80-80 tie. But while he was catching his breath on the bench, the 76ers swished three straight 3s, two of them by Kyle Korver, and Philadelphia took a 91-87 lead with 7:44 remaining.
“I was a little disturbed if we were playing small why we should give up 3s,” Karl said. “And their gas tank was probably a little fuller than ours and that probably showed up in the way the ball bounced in loose-ball situations.”
Anthony returned and jammed his right wrist when Samuel Dalembert fouled him on his follow-through. Anthony shook it off to sink all three free throws and then put Denver ahead 94-93 with a drive to the basket 30 seconds later.
His breakaway basket with 3:56 left gave him 43 points and put Denver ahead 98-93 before the 76ers rallied behind Iverson and Anthony went the final 3:05 without any more points.
“The man had a fantastic game, it’s just a shame he didn’t get rewarded with a win,” Karl said. “His efficiency was great. I think what you saw tonight is when he makes his jump shot, he’s pretty difficult, maybe impossible, to cover by one guy.”
Something the Sixers discovered just in time.
Anthony said he’ll need treatment on his right wrist Wednesday. … Denver is 17-5 without Martin in the lineup over the last two seasons.