Carmelo Anthony didn't look like a superstar as he walked out of the Wells Fargo Center.
Holding his postgame meal, perhaps limping slightly, Anthony was one of the last Denver Nuggets to shuffle toward the team bus after Sunday night's 110-99 loss to the 76ers.
Saying it wasn't a good night for Anthony is like saying his NBA future has been a talking point this season. Both are understatements, although which is more understated is debatable.
What isn't debatable is how much better than Anthony Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala played on Sunday night. For those 48 minutes, Iguodala looked like the all-star, the Olympic gold medalist, the man married to a reality TV star.
Anthony (12 points and three rebounds) finished with twice as many turnovers, six, as field goals, three, and finished with more giveaways than the entire Sixers starting lineup. Iguodala (24 points and seven assists) spent the evening diving on the floor and making sure his team didn't lose.
If Anthony is an all-star starter, then on this night Iguodala was some sort of legend.
The Sixers improved to 21-26. The Nuggets dropped to 28-19.
"Coming into this game I saw he was struggling a little bit," Anthony said of Iguodala. "It was a night for him to break out of how he has been playing. He played great."
Sunday was the perfect day for Iguodala's performance because the Sixers are desperate for leadership. After Friday's disturbing collapse against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Sixers needed to prove themselves as more than just an energetic collection of one-on-one all-stars.
Is Iguodala embracing this role?
His teammates, and coach Doug Collins, believe he has.
"In practice, Dre talked to us about approaching shoot-around more seriously, little things, and paying attention to the little things that can help us win games," said Evan Turner, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. "And he came out with leadership and pretty much practiced what he preached."
Collins called Iguodala's play "brilliant."
"The team I know I've had all year showed up once again," Collins said. "It's a team that is incredibly resilient, professional, hardworking, competitive, and that really cares every night. When we lose it's not because we don't want to make the effort."
After allowing Denver point guard Chauncey Billups 22 first-half points, and after watching the Nuggets drop their first seven three-point shots and score 34 points in the first quarter, the Sixers were by far the superior team.
"Nothing was said. I think that was key," Iguodala said of not discussing previous meltdowns during the game. "We have to be able to police ourselves."
"It's a feel-good game for us because we got the lead, a nice-size lead, and in the fourth quarter we protected it," said power forward Elton Brand, who scored 15 points.
The fourth quarter crept toward the Sixers like a swirling storm: What kind of devastation awaited them? One never knows with this team. They're about as predictable as a flash mob.
But on Sunday, the collapse never happened.
Iguodala outshined Anthony, the Sixers outplayed the Nuggets, and a little bit of Friday's lingering pain was buried beneath a victory.
Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at email@example.com.
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