DENVER — Allen Iverson's arrival in Denver sent shock waves through the NBA when the Nuggets acquired the four-time scoring champ from the Philadelphia 76ers in December. Paired with Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony, Iverson was supposed to send Denver shooting up the Western Conference standings. He was supposed to turn the Nuggets into an instant title contender. Instead, the Nuggets are a disappointing 14-20 since Iverson's acquisition and enter tonight's game against the Hornets clinging to eighth place at 28-29. Denver is just 4-8 when Iverson and Anthony are both in the lineup. "I think when you add a guy to a team, especially a guy of his caliber, to a core that's been together it kind of throws off the chemistry a little bit,” Hornets forward Desmond Mason said. "I think that's what they're struggling with. Now you're pushing guys out of their comfort zone on the offensive end and on the defensive end, too. So I think it's a chemistry thing.” Despite the powerful 1-2 punch of Anthony, the NBA's leading scorer at 30.4 points per game, and Iverson, who ranks fifth with a 28-point average, the Nuggets have lost five of their past seven games. They've allowed an average of 105.5 points while averaging only 98.8 points of their own over that span. "They've just been trying to find what works,” Chris Paul said. "With J.R. (Smith) being hurt, that was another adjustment they had to overcome. "But they'll be fine. They're both winners, and they're going to do whatever they have to do to win. I still think they're two deadly players, and when you put them together it's trouble. People have been killing them, now saying, ‘It's not working.' But if it works at the end of March and April and on, then that's when you want it to.” Of course, the Hornets don't want things to start working in Denver's favor. After all, it's been the Nuggets' struggles that have kept the Hornets alive in the playoff race. With both teams wrestling with inconsistency, the Hornets will walk into the Pepsi Center tonight just 1½ games behind Denver for eighth place. The Los Angeles Clippers are 2½ games ahead of the Hornets but are also battling inconsistency. "We better start winning games, because those two teams in front of us aren't going to keep losing,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We've been a game behind or a half game behind for a week or so. And when we had three days off we were in the seventh spot because we didn't play and they were losing. They're not going to continue to lose. "We can't rely on looking at the schedule and saying, ‘OK. We got tough games, but so do they,' and thinking that they're going to lose their games. We've got to start winning games.” Despite Denver's recent problems, the Hornets know how difficult victory will be tonight, specifically because of the Iverson-Anthony tandem. "Both of them are tough to guard, so it makes it hard on your team because they're matchup problems in general that forces you to rely on a lot of help,” Mason said. "For us, we just want to play team defense. If those guys want to go out and take 50, 60 shots and nobody else is going to score, I think that's going to be a plus for us. We just got to make sure we control the rest of the guys because they're going to get enough shots between the two of them.”
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Hornets at NuggetsWhen: 8 p.m. Where: Pepsi Center Television: Cox 7 Radio: KHBZ-FM 94.7 Probable starters