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D.R.: Nuggets can beat Spurs, really

Don Rogers

The difference this year is Allen Iverson, smallest NBA superstar.

As A.I. goes in the first round of the playoffs against dominant but aging San Antonio, so will the Denver Nuggets.

Count on Carmelo Anthony to be held in check again. Bruce Bowen, who again will cover him, is older but still able to clamp down on the best small forwards and shooting guards in the league. He still has that all-defensive team touch.



Still, Anthony has had a breakout season for scoring. I see him held in check, just not quite so much as in the past.

Besides, Iverson is around to take advantage of the extra attention paid to Anthony.

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The main man for San Antonio, Tim Duncan, was healthy again this season and will be at his superstar best. But Nene is coming on, just in time, and won’t be an easy touch for Duncan. The Nuggets’ power forward has the bulk, height and quickness to stay with Duncan on defense and make Duncan play him honestly on defense.

Then there’s Marcus Camby. The Spurs have no answer for Camby. He’ll be relatively free to help out, where he’ll continue with his league-leading ways blocking shots. Franciso Elson, who starts for the Spurs, is a former Nuggets reserve; he’d be riiding pine behind the Nuggets’ other bigs.

Camby’s shot blocking presence will be important for dealing with the Spurs, who while aging still have two of the quickest guards in the league: Tony Parker and Manu Genobili.



The key for the Nuggets might well be their ability to keep those two from driving for layups, with Camby’s help when they do.

That leaves Iverson as the key, whether he draws Parker, Brent Barry or Ginobili.

Iverson is underrated as a defensive player, mainly because of his offensive talents. He roosted among the league leaders in steals for most of his career, he’s still quick, and he seems to understand the importance of defense now ” you know, wins championships and all that.

I hope Coach George Karl puts Iverson on Parker in a battle of the quick guys. Parker cannot cover Iverson. I think Iverson has a chance with Parker.

Off the bench, it’s interesting. The Spurs have all the experience. Horry. Finley. And talent. Udrith. Oberto. But the Nuggets’ Najera, Kleiza and Smith have something going, too. Najera for energy. Kleiza has been playing great. And Smith, the most athletic of all the Nuggets, is the epitome of the wild card who could make almost as much of a difference as Iverson ” you just don’t know if that’s for good or ill.

This will be fun to watch, I think. The Spurs are just old enough, the Nuggets just promising enough, to make this competitive.

If the Nuggets pull this off, credit Iverson, along with the Nuggets playing inspired defense. I know that’s expecting a lot. But I believe.


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