The San Antonio Spurs just took care of the Denver Nuggets in five games, in what was almost a virtual repeat of their 2005 postseason match up. Like two years ago, Denver swiped the first game on the road, and then proceeded to lose the next four. Carmelo Anthony now goes to 0-4 in the first round. But this year was supposed to be different - they had Allen Iverson. What happened?
Iverson was traded to the Nuggets mid season, and the team struggled to mesh together due to ill-advised swing-and-run maneuvers by Anthony and injuries. But the team came into the playoffs on a roll, and looked to be a possible upset contender.
Yet the Nuggets just didn't look right, and a lot of that had to do with Iverson's struggles during this series. AI scored 21 points tonight on 6 for 21 shooting tonight, with a large bunch coming after the outcome had already been decided. For the series, he averaged 22.8 points, far below his playoff career average of 30.2. Simply said, AI wasn't able to step up his game.
Maybe it was the game plan. Maybe it was his struggle to share the shots with Anthony. Maybe it was the team's inability to get on the same page in time. Whatever the reason may be, Iverson seemed out of sync, and unable to change the game in the ways that he once did. Even AI realized his struggles in the series:
"Make 'em. Simple as that. I can't remember missing that many layups in one game in my career and not just layups, but uncontested layups. Like, I missed a couple layups that I know I can make with my eyes closed. So, hopefully I'll get those opportunities again."
It really seemed that for once Iverson's size was detrimental to his game. If he was able to get by the long arms of Bruce Bowen or Manu Ginobili he would run into Tim Duncan and Francisco Elson. There was too much dribbling by everyone on the Nuggets, and it drained the shot clock and brought the offense out of rhythm.
Lots of reasons could explain Iverson's disappointing series, but more than anything, the prowess of the Spurs explains it all. They're just a great team. Iverson's scoring went down because of the Spurs' great defense. Take free throws, a staple of easy points and poor defense. A poor defensive team will make stupid fouls, creating easy points for the opposition. AI thrives on these free throws - he shot 610 during the season. In the Spurs series? Just 31 free throw attempts.
The Nuggets went into the playoffs hot, but faced the stoic, solid Spurs. Hot or not, the better team usually wins, and the Spurs have advanced to face off against the Suns.