Nuggets staying
afloat until Melo

Jan 16, 2007 12:19 AM

The return of Carmelo Anthony from league suspension can’t come fast enough for the Denver Nuggets.

That infamous basketbrawl at New York’s Madison Square Garden a couple of weeks ago allowed the recently acquired Allen Iverson an opportunity to replace Anthony as the featured player. Unfortunately, the results have been lousy.

The Nuggets are 1-6 straight up in the last seven outings and have failed to cover the spread five times in the past six contests. Denver entered last weekend 17-17, closer to fourth place Portland (four games) than first place Utah (5½ back). Even up and down Minnesota eased past the Nuggets into second place in the NBA Northwest.

All the news isn’t bad, at least from a Vegas perspective. In fact, wiseguys are capitalizing bigtime on Denver’s troubles. Not only are the smart bettors making money going against Denver on side wagers, but the last four games have fallen under the posted total.

The standard problem with Coach George Karl’s starting five during his time in Denver is that he can’t put the same group on the court on a regular basis. If it’s not suspensions, it’s injuries. Marcus Camby is a wonderfully gifted athlete, capable of 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks a game, but not if he can only play 50 or so games out of 82.

Management recently dealt crowd favorite Earl Boykins to Milwaukee for Steve Blake, who at 6-foot-3 is nearly a foot taller than the Bucks new sparkplug. Blake hit several 3’s and scored in double figures, but Denver lost his debut game to Houston 90-86 as a 2½ point favorite.

Denver is no longer one of the NBA’s highest scoring teams. In fact, during the losing streak, only twice in the seven games has Denver eclipsed 100 points. Four times the Nuggets were held below 90.

What’s worse if you’re a Nuggets fan is the distressing numbers at home and in the Western Conference. Denver is only 10-10 at the Pepsi Center and a disturbing 5-11 against the West. Amazingly, the Nuggets are playing .500 ball on the road (7-7) — a vast improvement over past years.

Perhaps a rare four days off will do wonders this week until LeBron James and the Cavaliers come to the Pepsi Center. It had better, for the Nuggets travel the very next night to Houston. At least Karl isn’t coaching Memphis, which visits the Pepsi Center on Monday.