4-14-07 -- Not long ago, the sight of any NBA superstars in Oklahoma City would have been a dream come true. My, how times have changed.
A triumph by Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and the Denver Nuggets sent fans home in disappointment Friday night, as the New Orleans Hornets lost their final game in their temporary home, 107-105.
Anthony scored 31 points, Iverson added 23 and the Nuggets overcame an 11-point deficit in the final 6 minutes to claim their eighth straight win and the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
"We knew it was going to be a packed house tonight. They wanted to win, but we wanted to win just as bad," said Anthony, who along with Iverson forms the NBA's highest-scoring tandem.
The night started with a rousing pregame, in which Hornets starters came to the court through the stands and commissioner David Stern proclaimed that he looked forward to the NBA's return to Oklahoma City
The Hornets rushed out to their most prolific first quarter of the season at the Ford Center, but Denver never wilted.
"A great comeback, the type of game that's going to help us get prepared for the playoffs," Iverson said. "We just showed a lot of heart and a lot of execution at the end of the game."
Marcus Camby had four of his season-high nine blocks in the Nuggets' 17-4 run to close the game, which he set off by slamming home Nene's miss with two hands.
The Hornets had one last chance with 17 seconds left, but all three of their shots missed in a wild sequence. Chris Paul missed a driving layup along the right baseline, Devin Brown missed a putback after the ball went between his legs, and Bobby Jackson's desperation 3-pointer from the right wing was off target.
"We came out and were feeding off the crowd and just feeding off all the emotion," said David West, who led New Orleans with 31 points and 13 rebounds. "You've got to give credit to Denver. Even when we put them down 12 in the fourth, they kept fighting and never got rattled, and we weren't able to respond."
Nuggets players raised fists into the air to celebrate their eighth straight win, as the Hornets slowly walked toward their bench.
"They had a great atmosphere, the fans are very supportive of them. I know they're going to miss playing here, and I know the fans are going to miss those guys playing here," Iverson said. "I think it was a great two years for them, and they did all they could to win tonight."
Fans stood for the final 3 1/2 minutes, but ended up watching in disappointment as a scoreboard video recapped the Hornets' two seasons in Oklahoma City.
The loss severely damaged New Orleans' playoff hopes. The Hornets entered Friday one game behind Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers, who were in a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Hornets play their final three games on the road.
Paul added 18 points and eight assists for New Orleans, and Marc Jackson had 13 points and 13 rebounds. Bobby Jackson also finished with 13 points.
Camby also had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Blake added 10 points and 10 assists for Denver. Nene had 12 points and nine rebounds.
The Ford Center was sold out for the 30th time in 71 Oklahoma City games over the past two seasons as the Hornets made it their temporary home after Hurricane Katrina damaged the New Orleans Arena in August 2005.
The Hornets are to return to New Orleans full-time next season.
"Here in Oklahoma City, the time that we've had has been unbelievable," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "It's been a great ride and I think everyone's enjoyed it. I don't know if the fans are saying `Goodbye' or `See you later."'
Denver got the first two baskets, but New Orleans came back with a 15-2 run that included a three-point play and a layup by Marc Jackson. The Hornets led 35-19 before J.R. Smith closed the quarter with a 3-pointer for Denver.
The Nuggets got within 56-53 by halftime and pulled within two on Iverson's jumper in the opening minutes of the second half.
New Orleans started pulling away again on Rasual Butler's 3-pointer, and the lead was back up to 85-72 before Denver scored the final five points of the third quarter.