Hornets vs. Nuggets: Tuesday News Wrap

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Published: April 21, 2009

(If you’re new, check the top of this post for an explanation of these news wraps.)

A.M. Updates:

Benjamin Hochman, The Denver Post:

Sunday might have felt like Doomsday for the Hornets, but at Monday’s practice, the Hornets hardly seemed doomed. Down 1-0 to the Nuggets, the Hornets still seemed relaxed, laughing and joking after a morning workout at Pepsi Center.

“We know we can play a whole lot better than what we played in Game 1,” said New Orleans coach Byron Scott, whose team plays Denver in Game 2 on Wednesday.

“And the objective in the playoffs is to win one road game, try to steal home-court advantage. I don’t care if you lose by one or 30, doesn’t matter. And the 30-point loss is easier to get over than the one-point loss. Our objective is the same.”

Chris Tomasson, INDenver Times:

Call it the George Karl happy meter.

Not that Karl has a lot of Nuggets playoff wins for comparison, but Karl did notice the day after his team’s resounding win over New Orleans that his players seemed less content than in the past.

“Their faces are more serious and more directed than ever before,” the Nuggets coach said Monday, following Sunday’s 113-84 drubbing of the Hornets in Game 1 of a West first-round series…

“Everybody is not happy with the one win,’’ said guard Anthony Carter. “Everybody came in (Monday) with a serious attitude and it wasn’t like joking around or too loose or anything like that because we know we have a long ways to go. The franchise hasn’t made it out of the first round in so many years. Our main focus is to get out of the first round and let the rest take care of itself.”…

“It’s cut and dry,” Billups said. “Game 2 is the most important game of the series for us right now. If you focus in, lock in and win Game 2, you’re in a good position. That means they’ve got to beat you four out of five games to win the series, so Game 2 is huge.”

Jimmy Smith, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Part of the problem Sunday night in the Hornets’ 113-84 setback, according to Byron Scott, was the Nuggets’ defensive pressure and the Hornets’ poor shooting.

“I still thought they did a pretty good job defensively, but I thought we had a lot of wide-open shots we just missed,” Scott said. “But you’ve got to give them credit. I think they did do a great job of being aggressive with us and being physical. Again, we had good spacing at times; we just missed some shots.”

Hornets forward Peja Stojakovic said the Hornets lack of aggression harmed their effort.

“I think we have to be more consistent with our aggressiveness on both ends of the floor,” Stojakovic said. “It’s a game of 48 minutes, and we’ve got to stay on our game plan, especially on the defensive end, then the offense will take care of itself.”

The Hornets shot 23 free throws — 10 fewer than Denver. Scott attributed that to his team’s passivity and the Nuggets’ chippiness.

“We’ve got to be more aggressive on both ends of the floor, but we’ve obviously got to shoot the ball better than we did in Game 1,” Scott said. “It’s no secret when it’s playoff time that you’ve got to be more aggressive and physical. It seems like the teams that are aggressive from the start get to the line more, get away with more as far as the officials are concerned because that’s the way they’re going to play. That has to be our approach.”

Scott cited some “cheap shots” from the Nuggets’ Dahntay Jones on Chris Paul. Jones was called for just two fouls.

“He’s a good defender, but then again if we’re going to allow a guy to take those kinds of shots, that’s our problem,” Scott said. “We’ve got to be able to take care of that ourselves…

In a dubious sort of way, the Hornets set a record when they allowed Chauncey Billups to hit eight 3-pointers.

That eclipsed the previous mark of an opponent’s high set by San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, who made six 3-pointers in a game in last year’s semifinals series.

Benjamin Hochman, The Denver Post:

Heading into Wednesday’s Game 2, a fascinating battle-inside-the-battle will be Paul vs. Jones: Denver’s trash-talking defender andNew Orleans ‘ talkative all-star point guard. In Game 1, the Nuggets did a praiseworthy job on Paul, keeping him from taking over the game. Much of the credit goes to Jones, who had a little bark to his bite.

OK, a lot of bark after Paul starting yapping early and often.

“Trash talk is not a part of what I try to bring out there, but I still am not going to let anybody talk to me in that kind of way,” Jones said. “I respond. I’m a man, so I respond to certain things in the same manner you would. If somebody keeps talking to me, eventually I’m going to say something.”…

As for the cheap-shot allegation from Scott, Jones cried foul.

“I don’t recall any cheap shots, just a physical game, a playoff game, a tough atmosphere,” he said.

Arnie Stapleton, Associated Press (yahoo.com):

“It was definitely one of my best games in the playoffs,” Billups said Monday after reviewing film of his stirring play in Denver’s 113-84 whipping of New Orleans in Game 1 of their playoff series Sunday night…

“We’ll assume (Carmelo Anthony is) going to shoot more, that he will get more attempts,” Scott said. “But our defense won’t change a whole lot against him. We’ll try to be aggressive as far as getting the ball out of his hands and make another guy beat us—we just don’t want the other guy to be Chauncey.”…

Billups got going against Rasual Butler and Scott said he’ll change things up Wednesday night in Game 2.

“The change would be to pick him up a lot earlier. We let him walk into about three or four jump shots. I know they were three or four feet behind the 3-point line, but he has that capability,” Scott said. “So we have to pick him at the halfcourt mark instead of picking him up at the 3-point line because he’s still too dangerous.”

Scott suggested Paul will get more minutes guarding Billups in Game 2.

“I think the thing is really to put C.P. on him and get a quicker guy on him,” Scott said. “The biggest thing though, is to pick him up early.”

Nuggets TV play-by-play man Chris Marlowe for Nuggets.com:

Expect the Hornets to make some adjustments for Game 2 on Wednesday. Chauncey Billups lit up Rasual Butler for 36 in the first game—Hornets coach Byron Scott could switch Chris Paul onto “Mr. Big Shot.” I also don’t think we’ll see as many post-ups from David West. Look for him to try to get away from K-Mart and join the pick and roll with CP3. Meanwhile after scoring just 13 points in the opener, the Nuggets will try to free up Carmelo Anthony. With the Hornets doubling Melo on virtually every touch, it may be problematic. The key for Melo is to be patient and to pass the rock when he gets buzzed by 2 or more Hornets. And of course, rebound and play energetic defense.

John Reid, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Although their series against the seventh-seeded Hornets is far from over, it could be the Nuggets’ best chance to advance past the first round since the 1993-94 season, largely because of Billups.

“I think he’s one of the best winners in the NBA,” Nuggets Coach George Karl said.

Karl said before playing the Hornets that Billups approached him about putting in more baseline plays.

“He thinks with us, and fights with us a lot, and we fight him a lot because we want him to run a little more,” Karl said. “He’s says he is a ’57 Chevy and not a Mercedes, but we have a lot of fun together.”…

Hornets Coach Byron Scott said the Nuggets have been a different team since adding Billups.

“They got a coach on the floor with Chauncey, and they play more under control,” Scott said. “When they do have those periods where they give up six to eight straight points, he seems to calm them down and make sure they get into a set and get the right shot.

“In past years, they would still try to get up and down floor with one pass and then a shot. He makes all the difference in the world.”

John Henderson, The Denver Post:

…the mood at Hornets practice Monday was casual, unless all those half-court shots they were practicing afterward were more intense than their laughter revealed. Hornets coach Byron Scott came into this series with a defensive plan and isn’t going to change it much.

“Not drastically,” he said. “You have to give (Billups) some credit. He hit some big shots. The change is picking him up a lot earlier. We let him walk into about three or four jump shots and I know they were 4 or 5 feet behind the 3-point line, but he has that capability.

“We have to pick him up at the half-court mark instead of picking him up at the 3-point line because he’s too dangerous.”

There will be one other slight change, however. Scott said he’ll put all-star guard Chris Paul, instead of Butler, on Billups. Paul joined Butler as Billups burn victims Sunday, but Paul may stay on him longer in Wednesday’s game even though the 6-footer is 7 inches shorter than Butler and has three fewer years experience.

“You get a quicker guard on him,” Scott said. “And, the biggest thing, like I said, is pick him up earlier. They are cross-matched against us, which makes it tougher sometimes to find your man. But we can’t allow Chauncey to come down one-on-one against anybody and step into jump shots.”

Courtesy of Jimmy Smith in the T-P, here’s how the Hornets ended the third quarter on Sunday:

1:53: Brown lost ball, turnover No. 9.

1:20: West bad pass, turnover No. 10

56.9: Paul lost ball turnover No.11.

31.9: West, missed lay up.

13.9: Brown out of bounds lost ball, turnover No. 12.

Over at TrueHoop, Henry Abbott has some numbers related to losing Game 1:

…the winner of Game 1 goes on to win the series 78.8% of the time…

…teams with home court advantage that won Game 1 and lost Game 2 went on to win the series 65.2% of the time (possibly because of the difficulty of winning back-to-back games against the same opponent)…

Since 2003 (the first year in which best-of-7 was played in the first round), the Spurs have had a knack for losing Game 1 of the opening round. Or more specifically, they have a knack for winning championships after losing Game 1 of the first round, having lost in 2003 to Phoenix and in both 2005 and 2007 to Denver.

Sports On My Mind:

I‘ve said it before and I will continue to say it – Chris Paul is a punk. Paul personally instigated the chippy play Sunday night with his antics. Paul not only flopped continuously but had the nerve to get an attitude with both the referring crew and the Nuggets players. And how Carmelo Anthony was called for a foul when Tyson Chandler veered sharply and ran Melo over, I’ll never know; to say the officiating in the Denver New Orleans game was spotty is being kind.

In this series the scenario is this: if Paul is feted and treated like an untouchable, the Hornets will upset Denver. If the refs officiate the game as it happens and not as Paul or head coach Byron Scott say it’s happening, Denver wins.

ticktock6 of Hornets Hype with a response to the above:

Sigh.

Uh, did any of you notice the officiating in this one being particularly in the Hornets’ favor? I certainly didn’t. I think the Hornets got screwed because the more physical team was allowed to be physical with them and they weren’t physical enough back (NOTE: This is not the refs’ fault). Which, as we know, is familiar because it’s the pattern in our big stack of Jazz losses too. Yeah. I’m sure the physical play of a team known for physical play is solely the fault of the guy on the opposing team who’s under six feet tall. And also, in case he didn’t notice, the Hornets lost! Which kind of ruins his whole argument. Not to mention the fact that during games Byron Scott shows the approximate emotional range of a clam. I’m not sure what coach he’s watching.

Trey Kerby, Hardwood Paroxysm:

Yes, the Hornets need Paul to play heavy minutes, but just as important is that those minutes have to be intense minutes. Paul has a tendency to let the game come to him the first three quarters, and then really seek to put his imprint on the game in the fourth. If the Hornets stand a chance, that can’t happen. Paul needs to be dialed in and dominating from the jump, otherwise the Hornets are playing from behind. And with the lack of firepower they have, that’s not good.

Outside of Paul, no one on that team is creating shots for themselves or others. For all his faults, Jannero Pargo could create shots, so you have to put a little blame on New Orleans’s front office for not giving Paul any support besides jumpshooters. Then again, Paul is good enough to win games on his own. He just needs to do that right away.

Chris Dempsey, Denver Post Nuggets blog:

(Kenyon Martin) held a largely lead-footed David West to 12 points, eight below his regular season average. West made just 4-of-16 shots from the field. And Martin loved every second of it. He has arguably the quickest hands in the NBA. He’s never afraid to commit the hard foul. He can guard pretty much every position on the court.

“I’m not going to say I’m the best defender in the world, but I take pride in what I do and I’m going to make it difficult on whoever I’m guarding,” Martin said. “I think I’m a pretty decent defender. My team has confidence in what I’m doing on the defensive end. I just try not to let them down.”

Matt Watson, NBA FanHouse:

Anthony doesn’t have to carry this team night in and night out; it’s possible for him to have one of the worst nights a star can expect to have in the playoffs and still win by 29. It’s only one game and all that jazz, but this is the first time in a long time I can recall such a poor performance instilling so much confidence that a team is headed in the right direction.

Gil Whiteley, Denver Daily News:

If there is anything you can rely on in the NBA, it is if you disrespect a team, they are going to come back at you with a vengeance.

On Sunday the Denver Nuggets blew out the New Orleans Hornets like they stole something. Even worse, J.R. Smith went into selfish mode at the end of the game just so he could get his points.

That’s the problem: J.R. doesn’t get the point, but he might tomorrow night.

Chauncey Billups gave a clinic on how to be a winner, and J.R. threw gasoline on the fire. Let’s hope it doesn’t come back to bite them on the butt…

The defense did step up across the board, and Nene dominated Tyson Chandler, who we kept hearing about but somehow never faced this season. Tyson Chandler … big deal…

There will be an entirely new officiating crew at the Pepsi Center Wednesday night, and they are not likely to be as Nugget-friendly as was Sunday’s crew, who really let both teams play hard. The Nuggets got the best of the officiating, other than the flopping of Paul, doing an acting job that might impress Rue Paul.

Anthony Cotton, The Denver Post:

Karl admits to having more patience this season, and that player decisions that might have sent him into a tizzy as recently as last season aren’t necessarily drawing the same immediate reaction.

“I have a confidence now that if the team wants to do something, then you can demand them to do it more, and stronger and tougher, whereas if you fight ’em, there’s hypocrisy and scrutiny and criticism,” Karl said.

“It’s like J.R. (Smith), if I was 10 years younger, I’d have pulled J.R. 15 different times this year. But of those 15 times, I’d bet there were 10 where he got hot for us just after I would have pulled him. But being older, it’s like, ‘I’ll give him one more possession.’ “

Smith threw up two ill-advised shots early in the game Sunday night, but Karl stuck with him and Smith got hot in the second half.

“He was crazy out there for a while, but then he had that spurt that changed a close game into one that was over,” Karl said.

Aaron J. Lopez, INDenver Times:

“Leadership and chemistry and character are ingredients and personalities of championship teams,’’ Karl said. “The things that win a championship are `team’, defense and passing. Sometimes it takes two or three years for a team to figure that out, sometimes it never happens.

“I feel this team is talented enough to win the championship. The challenge is to continue to be strong defensive team and commit to the pass and sacrifice.”…

“I think every playoff series has a point where you don’t like each other. I can’t deny we’re probably moving in that direction.” – Karl on the physical play and trash talk that took place in Game 1.

Benjamin Hochman, The Denver Post:

Even the Nuggets know they’re probably not going to win by 29 points next game. And they know that New Orleans will, as coach George Karl said Monday, throw some curveballs.

So the key for Denver is maintaining the confidence seized from dominating Game 1 victory, but also recognizing that an insulted Hornets team is going to come out even tougher in Game 2 Wednesday.

“New Orleans is a very capable basketball team to adjust and make changes,” Karl said Monday afternoon. “My emphasis was, defensively, we did good, but we’re going to have to do better, we’re going to have to be ready for whatever curveballs they bring.

“The second win is always harder than the first.”

(Note: a bunch of the above links found via Ball Don’t Lie.)

Quick hitters:

P.M. Updates:

Posted at 12:47 p.m. Central.

Not much extra for you this afternoon.

Via The Last Word, here’s video of all Chauncey’s threes on Sunday:

At NBA.com, Chris Tomasson delivers a a feature story on Chris Andersen’s road to redemption. An excerpt:

But last July, the Nuggets were in a tough spot. Trying to save money, they had dispatched center Marcus Camby, the three-time defending NBA shot-block champion, to the Los Angeles Clippers. Gritty power forward Eduardo Najera bolted to New Jersey as a free agent.

The Nuggets needed a big man. And fast.

So they worked out the 6-foot-10 Andersen. He had been a fan favorite when he began his NBA career with the Nuggets from 2001-04, picking up the “Birdman” moniker for his ability to get up and block shots. Andersen didn’t exactly blow Nuggets officials away this time around. But he did enough to get a one-year contract for the NBA minimum of $998,398.

It might be the best money spent this season in the NBA.

“We have been given a gift by the basketball gods,” said Nuggets coach George Karl. “To lose Marcus and replace him with a similar player. He’s an excellent dude … I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger surprise from a free agent that kind of calls you.”

Quick hitters:

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