Finding a way to match up with Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash seems to be key for any team hoping to compete for the Western Conference title.
The Denver Nuggets hope they've found an answer, although they'll likely have to wait one more game before newly acquired Allen Iverson joins the lineup.
After setting a franchise record for consecutive wins, Nash and the Suns seek their 16th straight victory as they face the Nuggets on Wednesday night in a matchup of the NBA's top scoring teams.
The Suns (18-6) set a team record with their 15th win in a row Tuesday, 115-98 over Toronto. Phoenix, with two-time league MVP Nash leading the way and Amare Stoudemire finally healthy, is trying to emerge as a favorite in the rugged West.
While currently short-handed, Denver (14-9) hopes it now has the personnel to challenge the Suns after acquiring Iverson, a four-time scoring champion, in a trade with Philadelphia on Tuesday. The Nuggets sent Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two 2007 first-round picks to the 76ers, and also got Ivan McFarlin.
The Nuggets, though, will apparently have to wait for the dynamic guard to join them on the court. With a blizzard blowing through Denver, Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien said it was "highly improbable to next to impossible" that Iverson would play against Phoenix.
Warkentien refused to rule out Iverson making his debut Wednesday, but it's more like he'll play Friday night against Sacramento.
Iverson brings his 31.2-point scoring average to Denver after 10 turbulent seasons with the franchise that made him the No. 1 overall pick in 1996. He will eventually team up with NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony, who is serving a 15-game suspension for his part in a weekend brawl between Denver and New York.
J.R. Smith, the team's second-leading scorer at 16.7 points per game before Tuesday's trade, received a 10-game suspension.
The pair began their respective suspensions Monday, when Denver beat Washington 117-108.
Nuggets vice president of player personnel Rex Chapman said Iverson and Anthony will "be a dynamic duo together. They are going to take this franchise to new heights."
Denver is already second in the league in scoring, averaging 108.8 points, while Phoenix leads the NBA with 110.7 per contest.
Iverson asked for a trade two weeks ago, essentially ending his time with the only team he's ever played for. The 76ers sent Iverson home for good Dec. 8 after holding him out of a morning shootaround and he was inactive for six games prior to the trade.
Even though he was unhappy, Iverson, nicknamed "The Answer," is second in the league in scoring to Anthony and averaged 42.7 minutes and 2.2 steals. He is averaging 28.1 points, 6.1 assists and 2.3 steals in 697 career games.
Nuggets coach George Karl expects the deal to have an immediate impact on Denver.
"All trades shake your team a little bit," he said. "I hope that they realize that we're doing this to be better, we're doing this to be special, we're doing this to contend."
Iverson's quickness should help Denver compete with Nash and the Suns later this season, a compelling matchup that could potentially carry over into the postseason. The teams, though, don't meet again until March 17.
Denver is 1-7 against Phoenix since the Suns signed Nash as a free agent in 2004. Nash is averaging 19.8 points and 10.8 assists while shooting 52 percent (18-for-34) from 3-point range against the Nuggets in that span.
Iverson went 0-3 with the 76ers in games he played against Phoenix and Nash since the 2004-05 season, averaging 19.0 points and 5.6 turnovers. Nash averaged 12.3 points, 7.3 assists and 7.0 boards.
The Suns will be trying to extend the NBA's longest winning streak in seven seasons. They broke the franchise record of 14 straight set Dec. 1-30, 1992. The 15-game streak is the league's longest since the Los Angeles Lakers won 19 in a row from Feb. 4 to March 13, 2000.
"What does it really mean? Not much," Nash said, "but I think it's fun, and I think it's an accomplishment nonetheless. We should probably be proud of ourselves but at the same time realize it doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot, either."
Nash had 10 points and 15 assists Tuesday for Phoenix, which is trying to win the second game on consecutive nights for the fourth time during the winning streak. The previous three wins came on the road, with the Suns picking up victories at Boston, Orlando and Sacramento.
Stoudemire dominated Toronto with 28 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes. He was 11-for-14 from the field and sat out the final 15 minutes in arguably his most impressive outing since he returned after missing all but three games of last season following microfracture knee surgery.
"I'm just playing Phoenix Suns basketball," Stoudemire said.
The Suns won three of its four games against the Nuggets last season, including the last two. Phoenix averaged 115.5 points while allowing 108.3.