DENVER -- George Karl couldn't have drawn up his 800th win any better -- playing short-handed, making up plays on the fly in timeouts, inclement weather outside.
Karl was handed a Denver jersey with No. 800 on it along with the game ball after beating the Sonics to become only the 12th coach in NBA history to reach the 800-win mark.
"Tonight's game was fun because I thought from the minute they went on the court they thought they were going to win the game," said Karl, who's 800-555 in 19 seasons. "Coach (Dean) Smith told me a long time ago that if you can't accept that players win and coaches lose, then don't get into coaching. You can be the greatest coach in the world, but if you don't have players, you aren't going to win in the NBA."
Karl has a superstar in Allen Iverson, who finished with 44 points and 10 assists. Iverson had his highest-scoring game since being acquired by Denver in a trade with Philadelphia on Dec. 19. His season high is 46 against Chicago on Nov. 24.
"He's good," Karl said. "He's better than I thought and I thought he was (darn) good."
After coming out of the lineup with 1:04 remaining, Iverson and Karl had a brief conversation and then a quick hug.
"To be a part of something like that is something to cherish," Iverson said. "It was an honor to help him get that win."
Nothing the Sonics did worked against Iverson. He's now scored 40 or more points in 77 career games, which ties Oscar Robertson for fourth in NBA history.
"He was something," Seattle coach Bob Hill said.
Karl doesn't take any added satisfaction that the win came against a Seattle team that ran him off after the 1997-98 season. Karl said he no longer has any bitterness toward the franchise he helped lead to the NBA finals in 1996.
"This win against Seattle is special because Seattle was a big part of my career," Karl said.
He even improvised a couple of times during the game, making up plays and watching them work to perfection.
"This team just thinks it's going to win even being undermanned," he said.
Karl's first win was Nov. 15, 1984, against Atlanta when he was coaching Cleveland. He'd started the season 0-9 and never thought he'd reach this type of accomplishment.
"When I first started, I thought 250 (games) would be great," he said. "I thought 250 and you'd retire into a college job and coach into the sunset."
"We just wanted to get out of here tonight," Wilkins said.
Both teams did. Another major snowstorm blanketed Denver on Thursday and the Nuggets and Sonics both made dashes for the airport after the game to get out of town for their road games Friday night. The Nuggets will play in Oklahoma City, and Seattle will travel to Minnesota.
Seattle star Ray Allen didn't make the trip to Denver after his fiancee gave birth to a boy Wednesday, but may rejoin the team Friday night in Minnesota. Allen has been bothered by a right ankle injury that's kept him out of three of the last five games.
Denver's Marcus Camby missed his third straight game with a fractured right finger on his shooting hand. With Nene out as well with a right knee injury, the Nuggets gave Jamal Sampson his third career start. He finished with seven points and nine rebounds.
Denver used its fourth different lineup in four games since Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith were suspended for their roles in a brawl against the New York Knicks on Dec. 16. Denver is 3-1 without Anthony and Smith.
"There's not a whole bunch of pressure," Iverson said of being short-handed. "I just feel like all of us are going to have to do it together. It's going to be a team effort."
- Karl was 384-150 in 6½ seasons with the Sonics.
- Seattle's Chris Wilcox received his second technical for arguing a call with 18.3 seconds left in the third quarter and was ejected. He finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
- Denver is 11-1 this season when scoring 110 or more points.