Hornets vs. Nuggets: Wednesday News Wrap

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

Before getting started, you should know about the Game 2 watch party we’re hosting tonight with NOLA.com at Handsome Willy’s bar in New Orleans. Lots more info in our calendar, and you can RSVP on Facebook if you like. Hope to see you there.

A.M. Updates:

Backing track: Tuesday’s shuttlecast from the Best of New Orleans Blog, featuring Gus Kattengell of WWL Radio and Brett Martel of the Associated Press.

Jeremy Wagner or Roundball Mining Company has scenarios for the start times of Games 4 and 5:

Start time and network assignment for game four on Monday, April 27 in New Orleans depends on whether or not the Jazz can defeat the Lakers at least once.  A fifth game in the Lakers/Jazz series would bump the Nuggets/Hornets off TNT and on to NBATV with a starting time of 6:30 PM Mountain time.  If the Lakers sweep the Jazz Denver will play the Hornets at 7:30 PM Mountain on TNT.  

For game five in Denver on Wednesday, April 29 the Nuggets and Hornets will play on TNT at 8:30 PM Mountain unless Atlanta and Cleveland both sweep their series against the Heat and Pistons respectively.  Should neither one of those series have a game five, then game five of the Nuggets/Hornets series will be the lone game of the evening and start time will be 7:00 PM Mountain on TNT.  

Regarding the start time for game four the way the Jazz are playing a sweep by the Lakers is a decent possibility and no Lakers puts the Nuggets on TNT at 7:30 PM Mountain.  However, I think Utah should be able to win one game at home and that would mean the Nuggets and Hornets would be relegated to NBATV (Altitude would still carry the game locally) with a 6:30 PM Mountain start.  As far as game five I do not know about the Pistons, but I suspect Dwyane Wade will find a way to win at least one game against the Hawks and thus game five for the Nuggets will be at 8:30 PM on TNT.

In New Orleans, I’ve heard CST would carry Game 4 locally if it gets bumped from TNT. Also, check out Benjamin Hochman’s breakdown of the scenarios over at The Denver Post Nuggets blog.

If you follow only one link here today, make sure it’s this one to Roundball Mining Company where Jeremy Wagner has some excellent video analysis of Game 1, noting how the Nuggets defended the pick and roll and how the Hornets can attack them better. A few excerpts from the post:

The Hornets were clearly focused on two goals.  One was keeping Melo out of the paint and two was keeping J.R. out of the paint.  Byron Scott was criticized for saying that he thought the Hornets did a good job on defense, but I agree with him.  New Orleans successfully implemented those two goals and Chauncey made them pay.  The Nuggets are too talented to take away every offensive option.  If someone other than Carmelo or J.R. has a huge scoring night at least four times in this series then New Orleans will accept it and go on their summer vacation…

Defensively the Nuggets did a great job.  They played more of a contain style defense against Chris Paul on the pick and roll than an aggressive trapping style.  It seemed like they tried to trap along the sideline, but contain in the middle of the floor.  The Nuggets’ biggest issue was when Chris Paul would penetrate their shield around the lane because at that point no one was really responsible for him and he could simply circle around and get an open look in the paint.  The guards need to do a better job of sticking with the play and recovering to cover Paul…

Basically everything revolves around Chris Paul and how he needs to be more aggressive.  I really think the Hornets are missing a big opportunity to gouge the Nuggets in transition.  Paul can thread his way through retreating defenders better than anyone.  By playing slowly and allowing the Nuggets to set up their defense it lets the Nuggets off the hook.  Paul also has to be more aggressive in attacking the Nuggets big men, especially on switches.  I think the Hornets also need to get David West in space as far away from Kenyon Martin and that means fewer post up plays and more pick and roll with Tyson Chandler…

Oh by the way, I would also make sure Devin Brown gets approximately zero minutes.

It seems Byron Scott agrees about the faster tempo. From The Denver Post:

“We saw a lot of things on the tape we feel we can take advantage of, and a lot of things that we did on both ends of the floor that we can do a lot better,” Scott said.

It starts with the pace.

“We do have to up the tempo a little bit more,” Scott said. “We kind of walked in to everything, and when you do that against a set defense, it’s going to be tough.”…

Nuggets coach George Karl emphasized that, for all of Chauncey Billups’ big shots, the Nuggets’ defense preserved the Game 1 win.

“We didn’t have many defensive mistakes,” Karl said. “I thought we had a stretch of five to six minutes where we didn’t defend the 3 very well, and a couple times Chris Paul got into the open court when we should have been more alert. Paul’s going to get 15 points and 10 assists — we just can’t let him get 35 and 15.”

Jimmy Smith, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

The inside-your-grill defensive play of Denver Nuggets guard Dahntay Jones on New Orleans Hornets All-Star Chris Paul, along with some chatter between the pair, won’t be getting the best of Paul, he said on Tuesday.

“I got a tech (in Sunday night’s series opener) and I’m smart enough to realize that if we both get ejected or something like that, he’s done his job,” Paul said following the Hornets’ practice Tuesday here at the Pepsi Center. “So I’m good. I don’t know what he did. I’m not paying too much attention to him. I’m more focused on what we’re doing than what he’s doing.”

Dave Krieger, The Denver Post:

Told of Paul’s remark about trying to get him ejected, Jones shrugged.

“That’s putting too much of an emphasis on what’s going on between me and Chris Paul,” he said. “That’s not the whole game and has nothing to do with the wins and losses. If he’s anticipating a scuffle, then I don’t know what to say. My job is to put pressure on him and try to trap him as much as possible. I’m not trying to get in a scuffle. I’m not trying to get him kicked out of the game. That’s not something I’ve been worried about.”…

“That’s what Dahntay do,” Carter said. “I mean, he get into me in practice like that and I get frustrated. It’s just the way Dahntay plays. It’s nothing against Chris Paul. He don’t have no grudge against him. He just plays everybody like that.

“Like, the day before the game, me and him like to got into it because he was fouling me, and I was getting frustrated. But it’s just something that he brings to the team, and he’s just doing a great job of it.”…

“Dahntay reminds me a little bit (of) those little bugs in the summertime that always fly around your head when you’re sweating a little bit and you can’t get ’em away from you,” Nuggets coach George Karl said.

“He has a knack of being a gnat.”

Pat Graham, Associated Press (yahoo.com):

Still stinging over their lopsided loss to the Nuggets in Game 1, Hornets coach Byron Scott suggested Jones’ heavy contact on All-Star Chris Paul crossed the line.

“I can appreciate anybody that plays hard, but when you get to the point where you’re being a little dirty, that’s the thing that kind of aggravates me,” Scott said Tuesday. “Being that I played in this league, I know how tough that is. But when you get to the point where you’re being a little dirty then I don’t appreciate that—and I don’t respect it.”…

“I’m not trying to be annoying, I’m just trying to put pressure on (Paul) and play hard,” said Jones, whose team heads into Game 2 on Wednesday night with a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. “People don’t like it when you play hard, people don’t like it when you’re physical.”…

“I don’t give him no credit, not really,” Scott said.

Jones doesn’t understand the Hornets’ irritation. His job is to limit Paul’s production—by any means necessary within the rules.

“What Byron was talking about I don’t know,” Jones said. “It’s the playoffs, it gets more physical on both ends.”

John Reid, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

If West’s problems are not resolved for tonight’s Game 2, the Hornets will have difficulty meeting their objective of returning home for Saturday’s Game 3 with the series tied at 1.

“I’ve just got to play better — that’s it,” West said after Tuesday’s practice at the Pepsi Center. “I’ve got to be a little more aggressive and make some shots.”

For the past two days, the Hornets spent extended sessions watching game tape to solve their mistakes, which included a lack of movement once the pass was sent to West, not pushing the tempo and failing to make open shots…

“I looked at the tape, and he had 16 shots, and seven of them he hesitated on,” Scott said. “When he hesitated, he missed six of them. The eight or nine that he took when he didn’t hesitate, he made 55 percent of those. I told him when we have the court spread, he has to look to take his shot and be aggressive.”…

“D-West is an All-Star and our go-to guy,” Paul said. “We definitely feed off his momentum. He played a good game; he just didn’t make all of his shots. So, we’re going to go to him again like we did the first game. Hopefully, he will get a few early baskets and get going, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Chris Dempsey, The Denver Post:

Those who know New Orleans star forward David West look for nothing less than an all-star effort from him tonight in Game 2 against the Nuggets.

“He seems to always come back the next game just much more focused,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said Tuesday after practice at the Pepsi Center. “That’s the David West that I think we will see (tonight).”

Recent history suggests the Nuggets will have their hands full.

After scoring 18 points against Denver on March 25, he responded with 29 points in the next game against New York. He scored 19 points on 8-of-20 shooting against the L.A. Clippers on April 1, then came back with 31 against Golden State. And, after scoring 14 points against Houston on April 13, he answered with 34 points against San Antonio two nights later…

“He played good defense,” West said of Martin. “But I missed some shots I thought I should have made. I didn’t give myself a chance in those situations. I got to take what’s there. That’s the biggest thing. But I’m always going to stick to what I do. I’m not going to let anybody change that.”

Scott said his team needs to have more success using the screen-and-roll with West.

“There’s times during the season where he stands,” Scott said. “But against this team, you’ve got to create space, even on the pick-and-roll. If he sets it and (Chris Paul) comes off, he has to get to that short corner as quick as possible. That creates indecision on their part. Either Chris is going to have a wide-open shot, or if Kenyon comes up, he can throw it to David for a wide-open shot.”

Jimmy Smith, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

“I don’t know if (the schedule) benefits one team or the other; I think it just gives us more time to prepare,” Scott said. “In that essence, maybe it does benefit us a little more. We saw a lot of things on the tape that we feel we can take advantage of, and we saw a lot of things on both ends of the floor we can do a lot better.

“Having a couple of days to prepare for it obviously helps us. It gives up a little more time to rest and get healthier for Tyson and guys like that. Hopefully, that will show up (tonight).”…

The Nuggets had a 49-35 (rebounding) advantage (in Game 1), an extraordinary number when taking into account the differential in the four games the teams played in the regular season.

The largest edge either team had in the regular-season games was plus-two, which came in the Nuggets’ 101-88 victory on March 25 at the New Orleans Arena…

How can the Hornets improve?

“We’ve got to go get it. Rebounding is nothing but desire, effort and determination,” Scott said. “When the ball goes up, in your mind as a rebounder, you’ve got to say, ‘That ball is mine.’ And you’ve got to go attack the glass. Guys were in position. Denver just worked harder.

“We watched the tape the other day. And that was an emphasis coming into the series, but a shot goes up, and in one instance they had Nene down there, and we had David (West) and Tyson down there, and he gets the ball. Can’t happen. That’s just effort. They outworked us on the board. That’s something we’ve got to take care of.”

John Reid, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

In 2 1/2 seasons with the Hornets, center Chris Andersen established friendships with his teammates. But when asked after Tuesday’s practice who remains his best friend on the team, Andersen said Chad Shinn, the Hornets’ Executive Officer Of the Board and son of owner George Shinn…

“He sends me text messages, saying I’m playing great,” Andersen said. “We’ve been friends for quite some time.”

Benjamin Hochman, The Denver Post:

“I think there are situations that we didn’t exploit with Melo. We’re trying to find answers to get him more opportunities,” Nuggets coach George Karl said Tuesday. “We didn’t find Melo in what we call ‘early offense.’ I thought he had situations where we could have gotten him the ball better. I think we have switching situations that we’re going to get Melo more opportunity to play from. But we’re not going to overreact. I thought Melo had a solid-to-good game with bad statistics.”

In Game 1, it was clear from the get-go that Anthony was the Hornets’ No. 1 defensive priority. There were double teams and, on occasion, triple teams, against him. And, during pick-and- rolls, there always seemed to be a Hornet swarming. Anthony was 4-for-12 from the field, all two-point attempts.

“We just attacked him,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “That was really the only bright spot defensively as far as trying to get after him a little bit when he caught the ball.

“We tried to make it as crowded as possible for him. That’s the biggest thing. He’s such a great offensive player. Nobody can guard him one-on-one. You’ve got to make him where he sees somebody else. Not only the guy in front of him, but the guys behind him as well. I thought we did a pretty effective job as far as just forcing him to shoot jump shots.”

Chris Tomasson, INDenver Times:

“I don’t have that big of a load on my shoulders,’’ said Anthony, whose team plays Game 2 Wednesday at the Pepsi Center. “I’m not saying I wanted to score 13. But to score 13 points and have somebody like Chauncey do what he did, I’ll take that every night.’’

But Billups isn’t going shoot 8-of-9 from three-point range every night. With that in mind, there’s a realization the guy who led the Nuggets in scoring with a 22.8 regular-season average figures soon to be back to his old ways.

“We definitely have to be worried about that,’’ said New Orleans point guard Chris Paul. “At the same time, David West was 4-of-16 (for 12 points Sunday), so he may explode.’’

Mike Wolf, Denver Nuggets Examiner:

Nuggets strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess has obviously spent a lot of time managing the rehabilitations of both Kenyon and Nene (who overcame cancer last year), and beams like a proud father when he speaks of the strides they’ve made.

“You know, it’s amazing,” said Hess.  “The thing is, you get so close to these guys as human beings that any success they have, it’s the most unbelievable thing.  But a guy like K-Mart, he’s overcome so much by getting through two microfracture surgeries.  And every injury he’s had, he’s worked so hard to come back.  For him to see success in the realm of what he does, and if I had a tiny part, that’s what makes my job.  That’s what makes me love it.”

Hess clearly played a huge role in getting the Nuggets’ agile frontcourt back to full strength.  But he’s quick to deflect any credit for helping to (literally) mold one of the best teams in Nuggets history.

“These are remarkable men, and I’ve had a ton of support,” said Hess.  “What excites me about my job is when a player is injured and he comes back and plays.  It’s like I studied for a test and got an A.  You can ask my wife, I dream about this stuff.  This is what I do, and it’s not a job to me.  I literally think of ‘how can I help these guys help themselves?’”

Quick hitter:

P.M. Updates:

Posted at 12:31 p.m. Central.

Bits and pieces from Mike Moreau of Scouts Inc. as he previews Game 2:

– Even when the Hornets did a good job defending the initial action in Game 1, they went to sleep on the defensive boards and gave up some easy putbacks to Chris Anderson and Linas Kleiza. The Hornets were destroyed on the boards, and they must put a body on The Birdman in Game 2.

– Offensively, the Hornets found some success with selective running, with Chris Paul accelerating at half court and creating some easy opportunities. Look for more of this from Paul in Game 2 as New Orleans looks for more easy baskets.

– One key area of concern for coach Byron Scott was his team’s inability to finish quarters, letting Denver extend its lead at the half and turning a seven-point deficit into a 17-point deficit in the last two minutes of the third quarter.

– What was lost in Billups’ 36-point explosion was the fact that all five starters contributed to Denver’s first 17 points. Although Billups carried most of the load, he made sure the other Nuggets were involved early. With increased attention paid to Billups in Game 2, expect the offensive emphasis on sharing the wealth to continue.

– Expect more of the “dribble at” action, which gets Kenyon Martin the ball coming off the baseline and into the middle, as well as early post-ups by Nene Hilario.

– In spite of the final score, the Hornets had the pace at their liking and were within striking distance until the last two minutes of the third quarter. With better execution, they have to like their chances to keep things closer in Game 2. But Denver will keep their foot on the gas, stay on the attack and ride the energy of the home crowd. Prediction: Denver wins Game 2

At Hornets.com, Jim Eichenhofer tackles some key Game 2 questions. Excerpts:

Casual hoops fans who don’t follow the game closely but watched Game 1 may be under the impression that the Nuggets’ outstanding point guard is one of the NBA’s all-time great three-point shooters. His season and career statistics indicate that Game 1 was not a complete aberration for Billups – after all, he was the NBA’s 29th-best shooter from three-point range in the 2008-09 regular season, at 40.8 percent. But coming off an incredible 8-for-9 performance, he can’t shoot this well all series, can he? A career 38.8 percent three-point shooter over 12 years in the league, the University of Colorado alum has earned a well-deserved reputation as a clutch player who is at his best in big games…

There has to be concern from a Hornets standpoint that it was a 29-point defeat despite a subpar game from Nuggets leading scorer Carmelo Anthony (4-for-12, 13 points). As a team, the Nuggets shot 50.7 percent from the field in Game 1, which seems extremely high, but take a closer look at the stats over their last batch of home games: Denver has been an offensive machine in the Pepsi Center, shooting over 50 percent from the field six times in their last eight home dates. On the road, it’s been a completely different story. The Nuggets have reached 50-percent shooting only twice in their last 11 away games.

Denver Stiffs:

Part of Melo’s offensive struggles and inability to get into the offensive flow of the game result from his bizarre propensity to get himself into foul trouble in the postseason (Melo averaged just three fouls per game in the regular season). He picked up four quick ones on Sunday night, forcing Nuggets coach George Karl to sit Melo for most of the second half (luckily we never needed him back in the game). Last season against the Lakers, Melo racked up four and five fouls, respectively, in the first two games and fouled out in Game 4, forcing him to watch the Nuggets get swept from the bench. And against the Clippers in 2006, Melo fouled out of the critical Game 4 and almost fouled out in Game 2, as well.

So in order for the Nuggets to take a 2-0 series lead into the Big Easy tomorrow, they first need to match that incredible defensive intensity and toughness that we saw in Game 1… and secondly, they need to get a solid offensive night out of Carmelo Anthony and keep him on the floor.

Quick hitter:

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter (here and here) and/or subscribe to our RSS feeds to make sure you don’t miss a beat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.