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BASKETBALL

Iverson, Smith help Nuggets rock Cavs

Los Angeles - Allen Iverson and fellow-All-Star Carmelo Anthony - the league's top one-two scoring punch at more than 50 per game - received some unexpected firepower on Monday night, helping the Denver Nuggets register an easy knock-out.



Iverson erupted for 37 points and J.R. Smith came off the bench to pour in 29 points - both season-highs - as the Nuggets rocked the travel-weary Cleveland Cavaliers 122-100 for their third straight victory.

 "We came out here and played good basketball from beginning to end," said Iverson, who hit 14-of-20 shots and handed out eight assists.

 Smith had seen limited action this season. Through four games, he came in averaging just 7.8 points on 33 per cent field goal shooting and 31 per cent on 3-pointers. But the long-distance shooter showed practice makes perfect, connecting on 10-of-13 shots, including a personal-best seven-of-eight from behind the arc.

 "I just worked on my jump shot the last couple days," Smith said. "I went in the gym yesterday, made 700 shots and came out on fire."

   Iverson admitted adding another weapon like Smith is going to make the Nuggets an even tougher club to deal with.

 "I think J.R. did a great job tonight," he said. "We need that from him off the bench to give off a spark like that. When he's playing like that, it's going to be tough for teams to beat us."

   Meanwhile, Anthony finished with 22 points along with nine rebounds in the Nuggets' (5-3) lopsided win over the reigning Eastern Conference champions.

 Iverson scored 18 points and Smith fired in two three-pointers at the end of the second quarter, helping the Nuggets to a 58-43 halftime advantage.

 Iverson broke the game open with 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers midway through the third period, giving the Nuggets their biggest lead, 78-51. They carried an 88-68 cushion into the final frame before coasting to the win.

 "I just got in the rhythm in the second half," Iverson added. "The basket was like the ocean and I was throwing rocks in it. It just feels good when you catch a rhythm like that."

   LeBron James had 27 points and 14 rebounds for the Cavaliers, (4-4), who finished 3-3 on their season-long road trip. Cleveland guard Larry Hughes was hit with two technical fould and ejected midway through the second period after having some choiced words for referee Bill Spooner.

 "We got our behinds kicked," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "Denver did what ever they wanted to defensively and offensively. For some reason when we play the Nuggets they take it to us and it results in them doing whatever they want to do on both ends of the floor.

 "Fatigue in my opinion was not a factor. The way we played was not good, it's as simple as that."

   Elsewhere

   New Orleans Hornets 84, New Jersey Nets 82    Chris Paul scored a season-high 27 points, including the tie-breaking layup with 2.6 seconds left, carrying the visiting Hornets past the short-handed Nets.

 Tyson Chandler had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets (6-2), who rebounded from consecutive losses after opening the season with four straight victories.

 Richard Jefferson led the Nets (4-2) with a season-high 32 points while Jason Kidd had 14 points, 10 assists and nine rebunds. Vince Carter missed the contest and is out indefinitely, after suffering a right ankle sprain on Friday night.

 Utah Jazz 117, Sacramento Kings 93    Carlos Boozer collected 32 points and 10 rebounds to pace five teammates in double figures, powering the host Jazz to their fourth straight win.

 Russian Andrei Kirilenko added 15 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three blocks for the Jazz (6-2), who shot 50 per cent (41-of-82) from the floor.

 John Salmons paced the Kings (2-5) with 22 points and Kevin Martin added 21.By Paul Levine, dpa


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