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Williams, Jazz outclass Iverson, Nuggets

Jan 7, 2007 - 6:25 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- Allen Iverson and the Denver Nuggets have a long way to go to catch the Utah Jazz.

Iverson was thoroughly outplayed by Deron Williams as the Nuggets dropped their fifth straight game, a 96-84 setback to the first-place Jazz.

Williams had a career-high 28 points and 12 assists and Carlos Boozer added 24 and 11 rebounds for Utah (24-10), which never trailed, beat Denver for the fourth straight time and opened a 6 1/2-game lead in the Northwest Division.

"It definitely feels good," Williams said. "We got out to a great start at 12-1 (this season) and we built a lead instead of playing catch-up. Last year we were playing catch-up all year and it's not fun like that. We want to stay at the top."

Iverson had 22 points and eight assists. But he made just 5-of-19 shots - including 1-of-7 3-pointers - and committed five turnovers.

"My coach has been trying to get me better looks at the basket, being that they are shadowing me the way they are," Iverson said. "Every time I run a pick-and-roll or something, they have the whole team stacked in, waiting for me to give it up, trying to make me give the ball up. A lot of times they were forcing me into difficult shots. Obviously that's something we are going to have to work on and get better at."

"I feel bad for some of the guys in that locker room," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I don't think I'm helping them as much as I should be helping them."

The Jazz mixed up the defensive looks they gave Iverson, keeping him off balance.

"He's such a dynamic player," Boozer said. "We just try and throw bodies at him. We threw a couple of different looks at him, a couple different guys guarding him. At the same time, we went zone and we tried to trap. We tried to push the pick-and-roll. We did a bunch of different things. You have to mix it up with him because if you give him the same look, he'll just destroy you."

Acquired in a trade with Philadelphia on December 19, Iverson was supposed to be the missing piece to help Denver contend in the rugged Western Conference. His anticipated pairing with Carmelo Anthony to give the Nuggets the top two scorers in the NBA.

But suspensions to Anthony and J.R. Smith and injuries to Marcus Camby have the four-time scoring champion right back where he was a month ago - forced to do it all by himself on a losing team. His team's records this season are a combined 8-24.

"We will play better as a team," Iverson maintained. "Since I've been here, everything has been positive. A losing streak is always tough, morale is not great but we still believe in each other. We believe once we get all of our puzzles together we'll be all right. Until then we just have to believe in each other and believe in the personnel we have right now."

"Whatever happens in the next five, six games is going to make us better and stronger," Karl said. "The NBA is an 82-game marathon, it is not a 15-game stretch in the middle of January.

In the first quarter, Iverson made just 1-of-5 shots and committed a pair of turnovers as the Nuggets started very slowly and never really recovered. In the first quarter, Denver had nine turnovers and eight baskets.

"I was winded in the first quarter because I was running with Allen Iverson up and down and I lost my wind," said Jazz guard Gordan Giricek, who drew the primary defensive assignment of Iverson. "Because he is such a great player, I didn't want him to start making baskets. I played high-level defense as long as I could."

Meanwhile, Williams made 5-of-6 shots and scored 12 points, helping the Jazz race to leads of 12-0 and 24-8. His layup gave Utah its largest lead at 42-24 with 3:01 left in the second period.

"I just felt good out there," Williams said. "I was just going to play my game. I always take what the defense gives me. Today they gave me the jumper to start out the game."

"Williams had a terrific game," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "He drove inside well."

Iverson finally got going in the third quarter, when the Nuggets cut the deficit to three points. A dunk by Jamal Sampson pulled Denver within 68-67 with 9:25 to play before Utah regrouped behind Boozer.

The power forward scored 10 points in a 16-4 run over the next five minutes, capping the surge with a layup for an 84-71 bulge with 4:40 to go. It was a double-digit game thereafter.

"They made a run and came out at us pretty hard," Boozer said. "We just stayed poised, stayed composed and we picked up our defense."

"I think they were better than us in that last quarter," Iverson said. "We had all the opportunities in the world, we had the momentum on our side and they were just tougher than us at the end. A lot stronger than us down the stretch."

Mehmet Okur and Derek Fisher scored 10 points each for the Jazz, who shot 46 percent (38-of-83) and improved to 10-8 on the road.

Earl Boykins scored 22 points and Linas Kleiza added 17 for the Nuggets, who shot under 39 percent (29-of-75), including 5-of-26 from the arc.

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