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Hawks hold off Denver's big three

POSTED: January 27, 2008 5:05 a.m.

ATLANTA — After Denver's big three was reduced to one, the Nuggets' big comeback against Atlanta ended.

Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and J.R. Smith combined for 84 points, but Iverson and Smith were ejected with 38.9 seconds left and the Hawks held off a late rally by the Denver Nuggets for a 104-93 victory on Tuesday night.

Iverson was called for turnovers on consecutive possessions in the last 90 seconds, the second with 38.9 seconds left and Atlanta's lead down to 8 at 101-93.

Iverson, who argued that he was fouled on each play, protested to officials and was ejected by official John Goble. Smith joined the argument after the second call and was ejected.

"I thought it was two no-calls," Iverson said. "I was upset about it. At that juncture of the game, those calls mattered. Once you take those two possessions away from us and at the time I didn't think we had the opportunity and I just reacted the way I reacted."

Smith caused a stir in the stands when he threw his headband and jersey into the crowd after leaving the court.

Anthony scored 36 points, Iverson had 27 and Smith 21. Only two other Denver players scored. Denver had been 12-2 when Anthony scored 27 or more.

The Hawks won with superior balance.

Joe Johnson led Atlanta with 22, including 17 in the first half. Marvin Williams scored 19 and Josh Childress 17 as six Atlanta players scored in double figures.

"We're playing well," Williams said. "We're playing together."

Iverson appeared to be pushed by Atlanta's Anthony Johnson when he was called for the first turnover with 1:27 left. Iverson protested the call but didn't draw a technical. He earned two technicals when arguing his second turnover, again when guarded closely by Johnson.

"It's an obvious push in the back," Iverson said. "Two possessions. I watched it on film. Obviously, two shoves in the back. It's a good thing for their team, they got away with it. I'm pretty sure they're pretty happy about the way those two plays ended."

Denver coach George Karl said at least one of Goble's turnover calls against Iverson was bad.

"He got bumped out of bounds on the first one," Karl said. "I don't know about the second one.

"It was just a young referee made a judgment call that we didn't gain an advantage on. I think the first one made him not call the second one. It's kind of human nature."

Denver trailed by 25 early in the third quarter but cut the lead to 101-93 on Anthony's fallaway with 1:50 left.

"A.I. and Carmelo are great players," Childress said. "You know they're going to get theirs, so you have to limit everybody else."

The Hawks (17-17) have two straight wins since commissioner David Stern ruled Friday they must replay the final 51.9 seconds of a Dec. 19 game against the Miami Heat on March 8.

"As far as I'm concerned, we're over .500," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson. "We'll deal with that in March."

Woodson's only complaint was his team's sluggish finish against the Nuggets.

"We have to learn how to finish games strong," he said. "I thought we had some slippage down near the end."

There were two ties in the opening minutes but Atlanta never trailed.

Marcus Camby's jam cut the lead to 12 at 97-85 with 4 minutes left. Anthony Johnson, who had 13 points, and Josh Smith answered with baskets for Atlanta.

The Nuggets were short-handed and potentially distracted. Teammate Nene underwent surgery Monday in Denver to remove a testicular tumor. A biopsy will determine if it was cancerous.

The Nuggets also were without starting forward Kenyon Martin, who returned to the team hotel after having a staph infection on his buttock treated before the game.

"We gotta deal with what we got," Iverson said. "Nobody's gonna feel sorry for us and we can't feel sorry for ourselves. We understand that we're in a tough situation right now but if we stay together then we can get out of it."

Eduardo Najera, who missed Monday's game at Charlotte with an elbow injury, started for Martin but missed each of his five shots.



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