DENVER (AP) -The Denver Nuggets are opening the playoffs on the road for the fourth straight season, and this time they swear things will be different.
``I don't really think anybody has us going past the first round,'' Carmelo Anthony said. ``That's motivation for me. I'm pretty sure that's motivation for my teammates also.''
The Nuggets have been bounced from the playoffs in five games in each of the last three seasons, by San Antonio, Minnesota and the Clippers. They haven't won a playoff series since 1994.
Why might it be different now?
For one, they have Allen Iverson to bring along this time when they open at San Antonio on Sunday.
The main reason the Nuggets acquired A.I. from Philadelphia was for his postseason intensity they believe will put them over the hump and help them win their first playoff series since 1994.
And at 22-19, they just posted their first winning road record in franchise history.
``It does build a little bit of confidence,'' center Marcus Camby said. ``Ever since I've been here, it's been the opposite: We've been a great home team and dismal on the road. But for some reason it has been different.''
The Nuggets are at a loss to explain their middling 23-18 home mark and their improvement away from the Mile High City.
``I really can't pinpoint it,'' Camby said. ``Everybody said we have the advantage of playing in the altitude, but it just seems like on the road we just take that togetherness of us against the world and that's how we've been approaching it.''
Eduardo Najera thinks he has the answer, and it's ... The Answer.
``Well, obviously Iverson brings a lot of mental toughness,'' Najera said. ``He's a very confident man and I think that's rubbing off on everybody and we believe just by having him on the court that we are a more complete team now that we have him. And obviously we have Carmelo playing better than last year and now we know each other a little better. So, I think that's the difference.''
Anthony had his own explanation following Thursday's practice.
``Well, we can breathe,'' he said. ``We can't breathe out here, man.''
Seriously, though, it has more to do with attitude than altitude, Anthony suggested.
``When we go out there, the crowd is against us,'' he said. ``The 13 of us out there on the bench and out there on the court is all we've got on the road. So, we know we've got to stick together and we know we've got to keep our mistakes to a minimum.''
Najera said he believes the Nuggets' confidence away from the Pepsi Center will carry over into the playoffs.
``We feel comfortable going on the road and winning a game or two,'' he said. ``So, I think that's going to be a key. Obviously, we haven't played well at home, so we've got to take advantage of the road games.''
That's the rub. The Nuggets only recently started to reward their home fans with the play they've displayed away from home almost all season.
``I've said it: I think we focus more on the road,'' coach George Karl said. ``We're more professional on the road than we are at home. I'm not a sociologist, but it probably has to do with distraction, focus and commitment.''
The Nuggets went a franchise-best 10-1 in April, when Anthony won Western Conference player of the month. Iverson said it's that rhythm that will help Denver win in the playoffs regardless of venue.
``You don't want to go into the playoffs playing bad basketball, because nine times out of 10, it's going to continue to carry on. You can't just turn the switch on and off. But if you've been playing with some type of rhythm and some type of confidence, then that helps,'' Iverson said.
``I think that's going to be the most important thing. Just us having that confidence, having that swagger, knowing that we can win basketball games if we play the right way. We are going to be in a tough environment. It's not going to be easy on us, but it's something that we feel confident that we can overcome.''
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