Denver 117, Seattle 112

SEATTLE, Jan. 23 (AP) -- An equipment manager informed Allen Iverson that he was going to deflate the game ball and stuff it into the star guard's bag to commemorate his 20,000th NBA point.

"Thanks, buddy. Appreciate that, buddy,'' Iverson said late Tuesday night, using his nickname for the many folks he doesn't yet know after four weeks with the Denver Nuggets.

"Just get me a ball for every win. That's all I want a ball for.''

Act II of the Iverson-Carmelo Anthony experiment showed there might be many of those in store for Denver.

A "rusty'' Anthony scored 34 points in his second game back from suspension, Iverson added 21 and the Nuggets used two crucial 3-pointers from previously quiet Steve Blake to beat the Seattle SuperSonics 117-112 on Tuesday night.

It was Denver's fifth consecutive win, and second in two nights with its two superstars together at last.

"It's dangerous,'' Seattle's Damien Wilkins said.

Anthony, the NBA's leading scorer at 31.5 points per game entering Tuesday, scored 30 for the fourth time in five games spanning his just-completed 15-game suspension for fighting during a December melee in New York.

"Having fun again,'' Anthony said after denying Seattle its fourth consecutive victory. "I'm a little rusty, trying to work that off.''

Anthony had 28 points against Memphis in his first game back Monday, then shot 12-for-26 on Tuesday - when Iverson became the 30th NBA player to reach 20,000 points.

"I'm a long way from that, bro,'' said Anthony, who has 6,163 career points.

Ray Allen scored 44 points - 22 in a frantic final period - and Chris Wilcox added 25 for Seattle. Allen broke a tie at 101 with his third 3-pointer of the final period, a fallaway 27-footer with 3:45 remaining. He was 1-for-9 from long range entering the fourth quarter but finished 6-for-17.

Allen's missed 3-pointer in the last 20 seconds denied the Sonics their final chance at a wild win. He also lost track of Blake twice in the final 2:23.

Blake, whom Allen left open because he was 0-for-4 to that point, swished a 3 to tie the game for the final time at 106. Denver went back ahead on two free throws from Nene, then Blake upped the lead to 111-106 with another 3 with 1:28 left.

"We were trying to keep Allen (Iverson) from getting to the paint and we were trying to keep Carmelo double-teamed,'' Allen said, summarizing the Denver dilemma that the entire NBA now faces. "So (Blake) was the one guy out there that we wanted to shoot the ball.''

As Seattle coach Bob Hill said, "There was a reason he was open. But we didn't want him to be that open.''

Blake came to Denver in a trade from Milwaukee on Jan. 11 for Earl Boykins and Julius Hodge. But he's not so new that he doesn't realize that next to Anthony and Iverson, no one except his wife is going to give Blake more than a glance.

"I know I am going to get open shots because of them,'' Blake said. "At the same time, I'm still going to try to get them the ball as much as I can.''

Iverson had just six points on 3-for-10 shooting in the first half, which ended with Denver down 60-53. He seemed in danger of falling short of his season low of 16 points.

But he made his first three shots after halftime - including a leaning, baseline prayer on which he was hoping to draw a foul that never came. Iverson followed that with a 3-pointer over Seattle's zone defense that gave the Nuggets their first lead, 63-62, four minutes into the second half.

Then Anthony joined in. His answer to the zone was a snazzy stutter-step and crossover dribble past a stupefied Luke Ridnour for a driving layup. That was the best of Denver's 10-0 run, which put the Nuggets up 77-70.

Anthony had 10 points in the third quarter, allowing Denver to maintain its seven-point lead entering the final period. Then Allen went wild.

Seattle's franchise player scored 11 of his team's first 12 points in the quarter to bring the Sonics back to 92-89. Seattle then tied the score at 99 on Wilcox's thunderous dunk with 5:10 left - before Blake rallied Denver.

Allen had 18 points in the first half, including a fadeaway 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer that left him hopping off the court and the KeyArena crowd roaring.

Notes: Nuggets coach George Karl on what has impressed him most about Iverson: "His passion to play ball, man. I played the game hard. But this guy might play the game harder than anyone who has ever played the game. Amazing - he's a skinny little kid.'' ... Denver was without reserve Eduardo Najera, who left in the third quarter of Monday's win over Memphis with a bruised left quadriceps. He is day-to-day. ... Seattle was missing assistant coach Gordon Chiesa, who was home sick. ... Tuesday was the 15th anniversary of Karl becoming the Sonics' coach. Karl was 384-150 (.719), the best record in team history, and went to the 1996 NBA finals during his rollicking, six-plus seasons in Seattle. Karl, still popular in the city, was fired in '98 after a lengthy public feud with former team president and CEO Wally Walker.


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