Denver 96, Portland 99

From time to time I have been highly critical of Allen Iverson as a guy who shoots too much for the percentage he shoots. Well, Friday he did it again. On the surface he had a really strong game, scoring 34 points. This time he took just 26 shots. And it was actually a useful 34 as his 12 free throws demonstrate he was drawing fouls and creating havoc for the Blazers defense. Anthony also had a very strong game with another 34 points and added a dozen boards. Had they gotten any help they would have won.

However, only one other Nugget could muster as much as 11 points and once you got past him they topped out at 5. This was a game where the stars did what they were supposed to do...and the role players did not show up.

On the other side of the court, the Blazers got good balance as 5 guys scored between 12 and 19 points. Aldridge and Roy had 18 each, though Roy struggled mightily from the field. However, Portland got a lot of help from their role players.

Outlaw struggled from the field but he made his free throws and had key blocks. Frye did not score a lot but he controlled the boards. Blake took just 2 shots, scoring 3 points, but he moved the ball and got the Blazers into their offense. Jones and Webster were efficient from the field.

In other words, though Roy and Iverson both had poor shooting games while Anthony and Aldridge were a bit better, the Blazer duo got help while the Nugget duo went it alone. That, in my eyes, backs up a bit further my ongoing critique of Iverson.

In his game, role players get used to standing around watching. With Roy, they are used to being needed and, more important, wanted. Guys like Outlaw know that even if they go 4-11 the Blazers need them to keep participating. The Nuggets had 2 guys with 26 shots, 2 guys with 8, and nobody else with more than 3. Iverson and Anthony completely dominate the ball. Meanwhile, for Portland there were 4 guys who took double figures shots, another with 7 and another with 6. It was a team game.

As Bryant discovered last year and Wilt Chamberlain discovered during his career, 1 or even 2 players having game after game where they and they alone are the offense, good TEAMS with no player able...or perhaps just not score with them will still beat them. Good team beats good individual play. And it crushes bad individual play.

This was not an example of bad play. With the number of 3s he shoots and the free throws he attempted, Iverson had a pretty good game. However, he never got other Nuggets involved and when crunch time came the Blazers were able to keep the ball out of his hands and in the hands of Kleiza who got his shot thrown back by Outlaw.

It is another good victory by Portland. Oh, and it pulled them within a half game of Denver for 1st place...