Hornets vs. Nuggets: Sunday News Wrap

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Published: April 26, 2009

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

A.M. Updates:

Nakia Hogan, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Unlike in Game 1 and 2 of the series (both Nuggets blowouts), Billups wasn’t in control. The Hornets pressured him with Chris Paul and at times tried desperately to deny him the ball.

Billups, who had averaged 33.5 points in the first two games on 60 percent shooting and 80 percent 3-point shooting, scored 16 points Sunday on 3-of-10 shooting.

“They probably were a little bit more aggressive,” Billups said. “But we anticipated that. When I get doubled or get in tough situations, I’m not going to shoot just because. I’m going to try to make the right play and move the ball.”

Mark Kiszla, The Denver Post:

For all the tense glares being exchanged between players, for all the flagrant fouls called by the referees, for all the ice on the bridge of New Orleans guard Rasual Butler’s swollen nose after being decked by Chauncey Billups, for all the macho talk about standing up by New Orleans coach Byron Scott, the real matter of physical concern is the health of Anthony.

Denver cannot make a deep playoff run if Melo’s marksmanship from the field continues to decline from the unimpressive 42.9 percent he has shown against the Hornets.

Before Anthony had removed his uniform after the defeat, Denver officials marched him to get X-rays, which revealed no new damage, and the team labeled him probable to play in Game 4.

Chris Dempsey, The Denver Post:

If there’s any worry among the players, it wasn’t apparent after the game. They were frustrated by the loss, but remain confident about the series.

“We’ve been fighting against adversity all season long,” forward Carmelo Anthony said. “Winning this series, the series doesn’t start until you win on somebody else’s home court. We have a chance to do that here on Monday.”

Losing isn’t something the Nuggets have experienced often in the past 45 days. Saturday’s defeat was just their fourth loss in their past 19 games, only their third loss in April.

“We still have the momentum. Our confidence ain’t going nowhere,” Anthony said. “The Hornets did a great job of winning this game on their home court. We just got to go back, watch some film and practice on the things we didn’t do right,and go back to doing the things we were doing in the first two games.”…

None of the Nuggets believes the team needs to make major fixes. Anthony pointed to the hustle categories, such as offensive rebounding and getting after loose balls, which the Nuggets did well Saturday.

“We’re fine,” guard Chauncey Billups said. “We’re up 2-1 and have an opportunity to try and steal one here on Monday night. We’re going to put everything we have into trying to do that.”

(Just a thought, with all this talk of a series not starting until the home team loses: if the home team wins every game, does the series ever start at all?)

Jimmy Smith, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

…it was the smallest man on the floor, Paul, who was once again a colossus among giants, emerging from the frustration of two road losses and buoyed by a note delivered to him by Thomas Scott, the head coach’s son, before the game.

“To sum it up, it pretty much said that great players don’t have to play great all the time, but great players play great most of the time,” Paul said, recalling the words his coach had offered. “It was pretty much a challenge to me, telling me I needed to do whatever I had to do to help us win.”

Posey, sitting next to Paul and wearing the hood-ornament-sized championship ring he won with the Miami Heat after the 2005-06 season, said, straight-faced: “I think Byron meant to give that to me, though.”

“Whatever,” Paul said, smiling…

“The only disappointing part of the game was our offense,” said Nuggets Coach George Karl, whose team shot 40 percent (30-of-74). “For a better word, we settled rather than be aggressive to the rim and with the pass. I think that will be very easy to show on film.

“They were doubling ‘Melo, and we didn’t take advantage of that as much as we’re capable of. My thoughts now are at the offensive end of the court. There’s options that are available to us that we’ll have to research and see where it goes.”…

The game was a bit of a whistle-fest: The three-man officiating crew of Bennett Salvatore, Derrick Stafford and Tom Washington called 58 fouls, 29 on each side, and three flagrant fouls, two on New Orleans and one on Denver. Each team saw two starters foul out.

One flagrant foul, assessed to Posey when he fouled Denver’s Chris Andersen on a drive late in the third quarter, so incensed Scott that Salvatore levied the first technical of the season against the Hornets’ coach.

“You know what? It was a terrible call,” Scott said. “To get a flagrant on that foul, to me you’ve got to almost throw the guy down, as well. To me, that wasn’t his intention. Just a terrible call. I thought a lot of things were missed. There were some bad calls in that game, but I thought they also were trying to make sure they kept control of the game because they thought from a physical standpoint, they thought it was going to get out of hand. It’s going to be a physical series.”

“I don’t know if any of them were flagrant, but that’s the way the league is calling them these days,” Karl said.

From the AP game recap:

In a relieved New Orleans locker room, Chris Paul and James Posey chatted about all of the hard fouls, all of the flying bodies that more than anything defined the Hornets’ first win of this postseason.

“This is the fun part of the playoffs, all the contact, all the flagrant fouls,” Paul said. “You never want anyone to get hurt, but after it’s all said and done, you smile about it because that’s the nature of the sport.”…

Posey also played the last 4:39 with five fouls.

“I wanted to finish out the game, just be smart about it,” Posey said. “The fouls I did commit, I felt were needed at the time — nothing easy, make them earn it at the free throw line.”

Trey Iles, The Denver Post:

James Posey sat at his locker in the Hornets’ locker room after Saturday’s playoff victory against the Nuggets with ice on his left elbow and right knee and a Band-Aid on his right cheek. All the while brushing his teeth.

This one felt good, despite the bruises…

“Our defense was aggressive,” Posey said. “In the first couple of games, they had too many easy looks. I’m not sure that we did anything different, just got aggressive and stayed that way.”…

“Our energy was higher. It had to be,” Marks said. “You can be in the right places but if the energy isn’t there, you won’t have the success.

“This game was physical and I think it’s going to be a physical series the rest of the way.”

Nick Sclafani, The Nugg Doctor:

The Denver Nuggets could have very easily won this game had Sean Marks not had the presence of mind to deflect what would have been a sure dunk for Kenyon Martin to put Denver in the lead on Carmelo’s shuffle pass with four seconds in regulation. However, Marks saved the day, and extended this series, with his last second defensive stab to force Carmelo into a spinning jumper from twelve feet that ricocheted off back iron…

Even in defeat we saw a lot of good things from the Nuggets. They valiantly battled a hostile crowd and a desperate team in a very physical game where three flagrant fouls and three technical fouls were whistled. They were able to come back twice from sizable deficits and closed the fourth quarter strong when they could have allowed this game to slip away thinking ahead to Monday’s game four. In addition, we saw Denver weather a 32-point, 12 assist, and five rebound performance by Chris Paul without what I would consider a great outing by any one individual Nugget…

So here’s what Denver should do with game three: Take the good, throw out the bad, and come out ready to take care of business on Monday night. The minutia of finishing quarters, sticking to an aggressive offensive attack, and making free-throws are what foiled the Nuggets and all of those can be fixed. It was by no means the effort put forth and that alone is a victory in my book not to mention the invaluable postseason lessons learned from losing a game that was right there for the taking.

Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com:

Nuggets coach George Karl was dismayed after Game 3 because, unlike in the games at Denver, Karl’s club was ineffective across the board against Paul. “This was the first (game) that (the Hornets) got everything,” Karl said. “They got the layups, the three-ball, and (Paul) got his points. We’re going to have to make an adjustment so that we can control one of those. He’s so good that he’s always going to be able to get something going.”…

(Byron Scott) on his tech: “It was a terrible call. Just like Chancey Billups’ foul on Rasual (Butler), if that would have been (James) Posey on one of their players he would have been thrown out of the game. (James) Posey didn’t do anything; he tried to hold Bird (Chris Anderson) up on the foul. It was a good hard foul, but to get a flagrant on that foul, you have to almost throw the guy down as well, and that wasn’t’ his intention.”

Lots of great stuff in Toney Blare’s game recap over at SLAM Online. A few excerpts:

– I don’t think this is over, but the Hornets as they are constructed are just about shot.  You’re locked into Posey for another 3 years, you have developed exactly zero young players to go with your genius PG, your All-Star power-forward doesn’t rebound, and your center is likely gone or a real injury threat in the future.  For about 30 games, your coach (who signed an extension last offseason, but—if I read the paper right today—didn’t exactly get a vote of confidence from the owner) has been unable to get anything out of anyone but your top 2 players (who he hasn’t rested) and takes young players from starters minutes to no minutes in a matter of 2 games.  On-the court: I’m a little worried.

– TC takes a huge charge from Lips Martin.  Like I said last time, Tyson has a lot more riding on this series than people realize.

– Tyson tells Melo, you don’t want me.  Next time down, he sets a hard pick that send Melo to the floor.  #3 on Tyson.  Melo comes down, hits jumper in the big man’s grill.  So Tyson finishes his first alley-oop of the game, then stupidly picks up #4 at the other end.  He’s losing his composure.  Byron is like, no, really, keep playing like that.

– Posey takes down Birdman, called for a flagrant, and TECH!  TECH ON BYRON SCOTT!  I WAS HERE!  I SAW HISTORY!  Place is going wild.  Billups misses the tech, Birdman hits 1 of 2, and the Lord just turned up the volume with only 1 point.  Hallelujah!

– Heckling has finally come to this arena, as I’ve advocated for 2 years now in the non-professional seats.  Tonight, a dude is on Lips Martin hard, but Lips points to his own mouth.  I turn around a see a big gap in the heckler’s teeth.  Kinda funny.  Someone else orders DWest to “Play hard, stop playing soft!”  Which is true, but maybe you can wait until dude finishes his free throws.

John DeShazier, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

The reminder of why the Hornets so vigorously pursued Posey, and why he has two such rings — the second earned last year with the Boston Celtics — also was too evident Saturday.

Simply, the Hornets would’ve sunk against Denver on Saturday if Posey hadn’t been around to keep them afloat, likely would’ve left the New Orleans Arena court with something a lot less pleasing than a 95-93 victory that pulled them to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series if the hardened veteran hadn’t injected some poise, cool and shot-making…

Posey had 13 points and tied for the team high with nine rebounds, playing 22:38. One of those rebounds was off a Carmelo Anthony missed jumper with 3.2 seconds left, Posey emerging from a crowd with the rebound, the appropriateness of the moment not lost on anyone who has seen him display his grit.

“It was a tough shot he took,” Posey said. “I was able to get two hands on it.”

And to draw a foul, and to make one of two foul shots to provide the final margin. He wasn’t happy with the miss — Anthony’s desperation heave glanced off the front of the rim — and his actions said as much.

“I was disappointed in myself,” he said. “(Anthony’s shot) was close.”

Benjamin Hochman, The Denver Post:

And so, the Nuggets are answering questions about what went wrong for a team that did so much right in the first two games. After making 12 3-pointers in the first two games, Billups made just three field goals in Game 3, missing seven, and finished with 16 points.

Karl said the Hornets spent more time and more effort defending Billups, and, perhaps more important, kept Billups from drawing fouls in the paint, like he did with ease back at the Pepsi Center.

Anthony finished with 25 points, but the Nuggets didn’t capitalize on the double teams that Melo faced. The double teams were more “alert and aggressive,” Karl said, and the Nuggets didn’t work the ball around the perimeter with the same zip and confidence as they did at home. Karl also said the Nuggets settled for 3-pointers. While they made nine, they missed 12.

John Reid, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Marks’ first dunk came with 2:43 left in the first quarter, when he broke across the baseline before catching a pass from Paul. Marks got fouled and made the free throw to cut the deficit to eight.

On the Hornets’ first possession to open the second quarter, Marks’ dunk cut Denver’s lead to 26-23. Taking advantage of another Nuggets’ defensive mistake, Marks set a pick before rolling to the basket, catching a Paul pass and dunking again, tying the score at 33.

“This is what you live for; we play 82 games for the postseason,” Marks said. “You don’t play 82 games to be home in the summer. Otherwise, it would be a complete waste of the season. This is the best part of the year, intensity and playoffs.

“It’s not like we’re saving anything for Monday or next week. This is it, and we know if we would have lost this game, no team has ever come back from 3-0. So you don’t want to be in that situation. It’s win or go home.”

From Elias at ESPN.com:

The Nuggets led the Hornets by scores of 10-0, 14-2 and 22-6, but New Orleans took the lead for good toward the end of the third quarter and held on to take a 95-93 decision in Game Three of their first-round series. Denver still leads the series, two victories to one. Saturday’s game was the tenth in the last 10 years of NBA playoffs in which one team scored the first 10 points of the game. With the Nuggets’ loss included, those 10 fast-start teams have produced a cumulative record of six wins and four losses.

Bits and pieces from At The Hive’s game recap:

– The Hornets pulled out the W in a hard fought game that saw four (major) players foul out. At the very least, they avoided getting swept by the surging Nuggets. At the most, they kept their championship hopes alive.

– Kenyon Martin: You are a thug. You are an idiot. I would ask that you not step foot in New Orleans again.

– Tyson: Dude, what’s the problem. Why are you playing if you can’t jump or box out? I might as well be out there fighting for boards (editor’s note: I’m 5’9″, 180 pounds soaking wet).Oh, and you’re ill-advised retaliatory (flagrant) foul after the no call on the CCC that might have been… childish. Grow up man, you’re stooping to the Nugget’s level.

Among some notes in The Denver Post:

Nene’s ire toward calls against him is reaching the boiling point. Saturday, after fouling out of the Nuggets’ loss, he steered just clear of criticizing the officiating.

“You saw the game,” Nene said. “I don’t want to be fined.”

Nene took exception with many of the fouls called against him. He played 32 minutes but was frustrated almost from the start.

Mike Wolf, Denver Nuggets Examiner:

New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush, sitting courtside, was interviewed by ESPN before the start of the fourth quarter.  “It’s not the NFL out there, but it’s close,” said Bush.

You knew a game like this was brewing.  What was chippy in Game 1 has now become trippy, as in “I’d rather trip you and knock you on your butt instead of giving up a layup.”  And that’s how it should be in a good playoff series.

Benjamin Hochman, The Denver Post:

Chris Paul’s biggest fan was dying.

Judy Bethea lived in the same building as the Hornets guard. She wore his jersey. She cherished a photo taken of her with her hero.

The days slipped away like seconds on a shot clock. Colon cancer took her hair and strength. Paul made sure to get her courtside seats to a game, before it was too late. And while Bethea’s husband and sisters were sitting vigil, Chris visited Judy in her home.

Then on March 30, a friend of Bethea’s named Angela Hill came to see her. Bethea was not alert. But she was wearing her Chris Paul jersey. She died two hours later.

“I called him to let him know,” said Paul’s mother, Robin. “And he said, ‘No, Mama!’

“He just cares about people, not about what they have or what they do. He cares about people.”

Quick hitters:

P.M. Updates:

Posted at 1:18 p.m. Central.

John Reid, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

It’s not certain yet whether Hornets top backup James Posey will be available to play in Monday night’s Game 4 against the Denver Nuggets at the New Orleans Arena.

Before Sunday’s practice Coach Byron Scott said he was awaiting the results of a MRI test performed on Posey’s right knee that he sprained during Saturday’s 95-93 victory. After getting treated in the locker room, Posey returned to play 22 minutes and score 13 points and grab nine rebounds.

“I don’t yet,” Scott said about Posey’s status. “I know he was getting an MRI. We just hope we got some good news. That’s a tough blow for us obviously if he’s hurt and can’t play. We’ll have to wait and see later on what happens.”

Denver Stiffs:

I liked the Nuggets effort in crawling back into this game and still believe they’re winning this series in five games. The Nuggets are clearly superior to the Hornets and seem to know it, too. We just need the Nuggets to sink a few more free throws in Game 4 and if the game is close, Melo needs to embrace the moment and make the big shot. He’s done it countless times in the regular season, now it’s time to see it in the postseason.

Zach Harper of TalkHoops.net, looking ahead to Game 4:

It would be nice for Hornets fans if Peja and David West could decide to show up to this game and play it like they want to do well. Peja is a complete disaster on the court now because he can’t slow down Carmelo Anthony and he can’t even counter or attempt to neutralize Melo’s points because his own shooting is so terrible. Chris Paul will try to keep the pace of the game controlled and work wide-open shots for his role players to step up. But Denver will try to turn it into a running game to keep the Hornets on their heels and receive another big night from Chauncey Billups.

Prediction: Nuggets take a pivotal Game Four on the road and control of the series.

Quick hitter:

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