AI Must Make Layups

The Answer is searching for some answers.

Allen Iverson still can't fathom how he could take 25 shots and nary a free throw in the Denver Nuggets' 97-88 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of their playoff series.

More importantly, he can't understand why so many of his layups hit nothing but iron.

Oddsmakers have made San Antonio -2 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 193 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on San Antonio -2 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

He figures at least half of his 16 misses would have swished through the nets on any other night.

So, what's the solution to all these uncharacteristically errant shots?

``Make 'em,'' Iverson said Friday on the eve of Game 3 at the Pepsi Center. ``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.''

Iverson was far from alone in his misadventures. Carmelo Anthony was just 8-of-21 from the floor and Marcus Camby missed an uncontested dunk in the final minute that allowed the Spurs to hold on to even the best-of-7 series.

Doubly troubling for AI was his lack of trips to the free throw line.

``I took 25 shots, so I obviously was aggressive out there,'' he said. ``I don't (think) there's going to be games where I don't shoot any free throws. And I don't think there's going to be games where I miss that many layups.''

Iverson doesn't necessarily see a tie-in between the two mysteries, however. It's not like he was getting hammered every time he missed a shot.

``Not at all, just misses,'' he said. ``I saw like two or three of them where I just missed the shots. A lot of times you'd rather have contested layups than wide-open jump shots. I had some good looks and I just didn't knock them down, and that just makes me feel that much better about the game tomorrow because I know I won't miss those like I missed these.''

Iverson's bravado is shared by his teammates, who didn't gloat after stealing Game 1 in San Antonio and didn't mope about losing Game 2, when they trailed by three points in the final minute.

That's in stark contrast to two years ago, when the Nuggets won Game 1 in San Antonio, then lost four straight.

``We sent the message that this isn't going to be an easy series,'' Nuggets reserve J.R. Smith said. ``A lot of people thought they were going to sweep us. We just knew that's not going to happen.''

San Antonio center Tim Duncan said the Spurs aren't among those Smith thinks underestimated Denver.

``We expected to come into these playoffs and have a long series with the Nuggets,'' Duncan said. ``They are a very talented team and we respect them. They got that first one and now we need to go to Denver and try to get our home court back.''

The Nuggets haven't taken advantage of their home court this season, their 23-18 mark the seventh-worst in franchise history, though they did go 6-1 at the Pepsi Center this month.

The Spurs went 27-14 on the road, one of the best records in the league.

``I've been on some pretty good teams,'' Spurs forward Michael Finley said. ``And what separates the good teams from the great teams is the way they perform on the road. And this team is no different. We seem to invite adversity, so to speak, and we seem to thrive in it because when you're on the road it's just you and those 15 guys and coaches against usually 20,000-plus. So I like that and it brings out the best in good teams.''

Spurs point guard Tony Parker said it starts at the top: coach Gregg Popovich ratchets up the intensity.

``Pop is always hard on us on the road and so I think we played more disciplined on the road,'' Parker said. ``That's the only reason I can see why we're playing better. Maybe sometimes at home we're a little bit too relaxed and we think it's going to come easy.''

That's what worries Nuggets coach George Karl, who has gone on record as saying Game 3 is a must-win game for his team ``for psychological advantage.''

``We're at home and we've got to handle our home court,'' Iverson concurred.

Knocking down his shots and getting to the line would both go a long way toward achieving that goal.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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