Hornets vs. Nuggets: Wednesday News Wrap

Published: April 29, 2009

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

A.M. Updates:

Leading off with Mikey in the latest journal post:

Byron Scott has said throughout the season that he’s never had to keep telling guys to just go out there and play harder. I understand they are professional athletes, and shouldn’t need any real motivation, but if you cannot get them up for a game, then maybe it’s a coaching issue. After the Hornets would lose a bad game this season, I continue to expect to hear Byron Scott take some responsibility, and I’m always disappointed. From this point on, I’m waiting to hear four words from Coach Scott, “This one’s on me” or “I take full responsibility”. Either of these two phrases will do…

I continue to lose respect for Scott as a coach, and in some ways, as a man. Coach Scott will lead you to believe, in some of the Hornets’ losses, that the players weren’t playing with enough intensity or passion. In some cases that’s true, and injuries have something to do with that. Injuries aside, the biggest problem with this team this season is that they just, at times, look un-prepared.  That’s a coaching problem, and he needs to take responsibility for that.

Guerry Smith, New Orleans Sports Examiner:

No one in either locker room believes the Hornets can win in Denver, come back and win in New Orleans and go back to Denver again and beat the Nuggets a second time.

It would not be unprecedented. The last team to fall behind 3-1 and win two games on the road to steal a series was Houston against Phoenix in the 1995 Western Conference semifinals. The Rockets went on to win the NBA championship for the second year in a row.

These Hornets aren’t those Rockets…

“I know Chris is banged up and hurt,” Denver point guard Chauncey Billups said. “I know he couldn’t really move like he would have liked to, and that hurt everybody on their team. When he’s doing the things he can do, he makes everybody better. When people get banged up, you have to try to take advantage when you can.”

Dave Krieger, The Denver Post:

The first time George Karl was up 3-1 in a playoff series as a coach, it didn’t end well.

The year was 1979. Karl was an assistant to Doug Moe in San Antonio, a year from his first head coaching gig in the Continental Basketball Association. The Spurs led the Bullets three games to one in the conference finals…

The defending champion Bullets came back to even the series…

“Closeout games are always hard,” said Chauncey Billups, who set the tone for the current series by dominating Games 1 and 2 at home.

“I’ve been a part of a few. It’s a hard game because the team that you’re facing knows that they have to do every single thing they can to try to stay alive.

“Wanting it is great, but you’ve got to want it in the right way. You’ve got to be unselfish, you’ve got to play defense, you’ve got to scrap, you’ve got to play harder than they do. Even though we’re not facing elimination, we’ve got to kind of act like it.”

Chris Dempsey, The Denver Post:

There are other highlights that possibly await, but Chauncey Billups admits this has been an exceptional season. One that got even better Tuesday when the Nuggets guard was named the winner of the league’s sportsmanship award.

“It’s been a dream, the things that have happened to me this year,” Billups said. “I couldn’t write a better script. I just hope it keeps going.”…

Although TV cameras caught him rolling his eyes at some questionable shots by J.R. Smith on Monday, Karl was nothing but effusive in his praise for the reserve guard.

“I told him that he actually played like (Hornets guard) Chris Paul does,” Karl said. “He had a fantastic fourth quarter — he made five basketball decisions out there that were almost perfect.”

Nakia Hogan, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Dahntay Jones, Anthony Carter and Chauncey Billups have taken turns defending the ultra-quick Paul…

With the exception of Game 3 — a 32-point, 12-assist Paul performance — the three-prone Denver defensive attack has befuddled Paul, while keeping the Hornets’ offense from finding its rhythm.

“I take all my defensive assignments personally,” Jones said. “Guys have had to take different looks. They’ve had to take me, then Anthony Carter, then Chauncey. And it kind of messes with them a little bit. We are three different looks working in sync.

“We all have different looks, and that’s a good thing. We have three different kinds of defense, three different mindsets, and three different guys playing hard. And that gets frustrating at times.”

Tom Ziller, NBA FanHouse:

Cleveland absolutely dominated Detroit in a four-game sweep the Cavaliers wrapped up Sunday. The series was never a series. From tip to buzzer, the Cavaliers dominated.

Yet Denver — in one road game — nearly matched Cleveland’s series-long points advantage.

In four dominating wins, the Cavaliers racked up a plus-62 over the Pistons. In one game, the Nuggets racked up a plus-58. That was a series worth of obliteration, conveniently packaged in one small game!

This was the sort of game that gets dudes fired. How you feeling, Byron Scott?

Michael Lee, The Washington Post:

To put that 58-point beatdown in some more perspective, the Hornets lost five games last postseason — one to Dallas, four to San Antonio — by a combined 52 points. This year, the Hornets have lost three games to the Nuggets by a combined 102 points. Do they even have to play Game 5?

David Schexnaydre Jr., NOLA.com:

…before you e-mail me telling me that this series isn’t over yet, let me just tell you, it is over. It was almost over before it started. I picked the Hornets to win in six games and part of me knew that I was only doing it out of hope… It isn’t rocket science. The Nuggets are just better. Period.

While West has been part of the Hornets’ backbone this season, he still needs to improve. He has not been a good defender and for a power foward, he contributes very little on the defensive end in the paint. He also struggled mightily on the offensive end in this series. He missed several close-range shots and just couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean at various points. There’s no denying his contributions to the success of this team, but it’s also hard to overlook how his shortcomings have hurt the team.

Zach Harper, Talk Hoops:

Peja Stojakovic is officially done. It’s not a matter of him healing from injuries this off-season and coming back next season as a healthy sharpshooter. He’s just done. He rarely is squared up on his jumper, which is causing it to be off. He has no lift in his legs. He’s more of a liability on defense than a sheet of binder paper. And he’s an unreliable scoring option. So what’s the point of him being on the floor for 30 minutes? And that leads me to my next point…

What in the hell is Byron Scott doing on the sidelines? He’s really nailed down the “crossed arms while looking like he’s frustrated with his team even though he’s secretly trying to make a mental checklist for everything he wants to pack for his next vacation” look. Where has Julian Wright been in this series? He’s a solid defender, great slasher, and has the length to bother Carmelo Anthony at both ends of the floor. But instead, Scott has been trying to alienate and frustrate fans by keeping Peja Stojakovic on Carmelo Anthony throughout this series. How could anyone think Peja could check Melo? Peja hasn’t been able to guard Melo since Anthony was a freshman in high school. Melo looks like he’s practicing against Yi Jianlin’s folding chair when he’s going against Peja. I just don’t get why you wouldn’t try to use your youth, athleticism and energy off the bench to guard the other team’s best scorer? Is Byron trying to get fired?

Michael Curry, Cleveland.com:

Not to take anything away from the Denver Nuggets, who have been fantastic in the first round, but they are a front-running team through and through. When things are going well, they have the ability to go on big runs, knocking down jump shots and staying aggressive defensively. But when things go bad, they get sloppy on offense and even sloppier on defense, making it easier for good teams to dominate them, especially in a series. I think they have a very good chance of making the Western Conference Finals, and might do it relatively easily. But when they face the Lakers I think they could be swept. They just don’t have much team resiliency, and that will bite them if they face Los Angeles in a series.

Jimmy Smith, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

At the top of Karl’s list of “Paul’s Priorities” is his team finishing out quarters, because Paul has had a tendency to do that himself. Therefore, the Nuggets have double-teamed Paul at the end of quarters…

The other priorities are forcing Paul to the right side of the floor, being wary of the Hornets’ “catch-up” games, which allow Paul to take a more active role if New Orleans is trailing by a big number, take away the middle of the floor if Paul is on the left side, because “he likes to get to the middle of the floor and attack into the teeth of the defense in certain personal ways.

“And you pray that he doesn’t make jump shots. Because,” Karl said, “if he does, he becomes very difficult to cover.”

Rob Mahoney, Hardwood Paroxysm:

Last night, the Denver Nuggets defeated the New Orleans Hornets by 58 points.  Fifty-eight points. As in eight more than fifty. As in ChrisPaulisaneliteplayerbutgotcompletelypunkedintheplayoffs.  High-level players face high-level criticism, and it’s only natural that Paul faces his.  When Kobe’s teams couldn’t perform in the playoffs, some poked and prodded him with the “You can’t do it without Shaq!” stick.  When LeBron was swept out of the Finals, his lack of a perimeter game was front and center.  The game’s greats have been dissected for traces of nebulous traits like leadership, performance in the clutch, and killer instinct based on their own personal success, but also that of their team. Paul’s team and playoff hopes aren’t yet dead and buried, but I’m completely comfortable in starting the procession after the Game 4 brutality.

Arnie Stapleton, Associated Press (Yahoo.com):

Take it from the man who just won the NBA’s Sportsmanship Award, the Denver Nuggets’ historic dismantling of the New Orleans Hornets left more than just the losers red-faced.

“In a strange sort of way, being up by that much is kind of embarrassing for the team that’s up sometimes,” Billups’ said Tuesday, 12 hours after the Nuggets’ 121-63 shellacking of the Hornets. “Only because, you play the game with integrity and you don’t want to show anybody up. But at the same time you want to play hard and you want to compete.

“It was an embarrassing thing to go through, but I thought the guys were very professional and just kept playing. There wasn’t no (trash) talk or rubbing it in. It was just playing hard.”…

Billups said Denver’s biggest pitfall could be overconfidence.

“That’s the biggest key right there. When you win a game by that kind of a margin, you kind of feel like you’re on top of the world,” Billups said. “I told them after the game last night, ‘Enjoy it. You should enjoy it, you deserve to enjoy it. … But come tomorrow, it’s back to business.”

Chris Andersen said the Nuggets have already put their big win in the rearview mirror.

“It’s a new game. It’s 0-0,” he said.

“I don’t think we’re overconfident,” Anthony Carter said. “We weren’t overconfident on the bus ride from the area. It was quiet like we just lost. We weren’t playing loud music, celebrating or none of that.”

John Reid, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Chandler has committed a team-high 17 personal fouls (in the series). He has averaged 3.8 points and 5.3 rebounds. In last season’s playoff series against Dallas and San Antonio, Chandler averaged 8.0 points and 10.8 rebounds. Against the Spurs, he often was isolated in single defensive coverage against All-Star Tim Duncan and gave a respectable performance.

Chandler has been unable to overcome an inflamed left ankle that caused him to miss 15 consecutive games before returning against the Spurs in the regular-season finale April 15.

“I can’t cut the way I want to.” Chandler said. “I can’t sprint or even jump the way I want to. My timing is off. The thing I can do is just make my presence felt out there.”…

“From a physical standpoint, Tyson is just playing on pure guts,” New Orleans Coach Byron Scott said. “But we’re not going to use that as an excuse. Everybody who puts on the uniform is ready to play.”…

“We always had the same attitude,” Chandler said earlier this week. “Even when we lost the two games, James Posey came in the locker room and said, ‘Don’t quit, keep fighting.’ We know we have to continue to fight.”

From the notes in the above article:

– Forward David West said the pressure is on the Nuggets to close out the series tonight at the Pepsi Center. If the Nuggets win, it will be the first time since 1994 the team advanced past the first round.

“The pressure is on them,” West said. “We have to go up there with the mindset we have to do everything in our power to keep the game close and hopefully give ourselves a chance to win. We have not played them close up there the last two games.”

– With the Hornets having all-time playoff lows for points (63), field goals made (17), field goals attempted (54), assists (10) and second-half points (24), the only productive player was Posey.

Unlike several of his teammates, unwilling to match the Nuggets’ physical play, Posey took the ball to the basket and made four of eight shots for 12 points. He has scored 39 of the Hornets’ 93 bench points in the series.

– Scott gave his players Tuesday off before departing for Denver. “I want them to think about what happened and rewind it in their minds because when we get to Denver, it’s a one-game elimination process,” Scott said after Monday’s game. “Our backs are against the wall; we have nothing else to do but come out fighting.”

Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company:

David West is a fine player, but he has been taken completely out of this series and I think the thing that has rendered him ineffective is the space between his ears.  He started off shooting poorly and has missed shots that he would normally make in his sleep.  Beyond that he is so concerned about the way the games are being officiated he was flipping out at the ref while he was guarding Chauncey Billups, who actually had the ball.  West was upset that Chris Paul had been knocked to the ground on a screen by Kenyon Martin and because of that was gesticulating like a madman and almost on the verge of tears.  Apparently West did not know that it is perfectly legal to knock a defender to the ground on a screen as long as the screener does not hit him with his shoulder or elbow.  For some reason West was not complaining when Melo was knocked down by a screen just seconds before.  I am going to say that after his performance in this series on the big stage of the playoffs, David West will not make another All-Star team.

Denver Stiffs:

As has been well documented on this blog, before the season began not one NBA “expert” – including the local reporters who cover the Nuggets – had Denver making the playoffs. Then, as the season went on, we witnessed Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich resting his three best players in an important game at Pepsi Center on February 3rd, followed by Phil Jackson calling the Nuggets February 27th victory over his Lakers a “garbage game”. Adding further insult to the Nuggets cause, as the playoffs approached and the seedings were in doubt the hosts of ESPN’s “NBA Shootaround” routinely had the Nuggets finishing sixth or seventh in the Western Conference despite the Nuggets demonstrating that they could beat anyone (well, except Cleveland).

Then, when the playoffs began, some of the same “experts” had the Nuggets/Hornets series pegged as one of the likely upsets. And even during this series, Hornets head coach Byron Scott has referred to the Nuggets physical play as dirty and rarely gives the Nuggets credit while citing his own team’s deficiencies as to why they’re in a massive 3-1 hole.

Chris Dempsey, The Denver Post Nuggets blog:

For Carmelo Anthony, if the Nuggets win Wednesday night, it will be his first series win. Ever. You can almost cut the excitement in the air with a knife when he talks about it. A win stops the can’t-get-out-of-the-first-round criticism, which in his view has arguably been the most biting of all the things his detractors have said about him.

Forty-eight minutes.

“Yeah, I’m excited. I’m excited man,” Anthony said. “I don’t want to get too excited. Good thing is we stole one here on the road and get a chance to go home in front of our crowd and close it out.”

The Hornets, down 3-1, appear to be done. They didn’t even practice on Tuesday, instead opting to convene, board the plane and come to Denver for Game 5. They are battered in body and spirit.

Soctt Ferrell, Shreveport Times:

Consider this: the Nuggets outscored the Hornets by more than a point a minute (in Game 4). This would be like the New Orleans Saints getting beat by 70.

In fact, not even the Saints have been beaten by 58 points. The Saints’ worst margin of defeat is 55 points against Atlanta in 1973 (62-7).

Sam Amico, Pro Basketball News:

A few league sources whom I respect have said that the Hornets may try to take advantage of Detroit’s possible housecleaning this off-season, with their eyes focused on Richard Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince (or both). West could be part of one of those deals, but it’s all speculation at this point. Still, you can’t help but wonder if it’s time to start over in New Orleans. That’s pretty sad when you think about how close the Hornets were to contending last year.

Quick hitters:

P.M. Updates:

Posted at 1:08 p.m. Central.

Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie (worth a full read):

All of which brings me back to the point about Byron Scott. Sure, (his team) may have quit on him. But Peja Stojakovic isn’t thinking about how much he can’t stand his coach when he airballs an open three-pointer from the 22-foot corner. And he’s not questioning Scott’s rotations when he hits back iron on another open three-pointer a few possessions later. Scott makes some curious choices to say the least, but if anyone’s rotation should be questioned, it’s Peja’s.

David West isn’t making fun of Scott’s mustache when he whiffs on yet another defensive rotation. Chris Paul isn’t yelling “dammit, Byron!” every time he tries to raise up over three defenders after having broken a double-team after a pick and roll, before driving into heavy traffic around the basket.

And Rasual Butler isn’t dribbling wildly to the left corner to hoist up a contested fallaway 20-footer because he’s fallen out of favor with his coach. He may have fallen out of favor with his basketball IQ, but that’s assuming it curried any favor with Rasual to begin with.

They may have given up on Byron, fine. But the real problem is that this is a crummy, crummy roster beyond CP3 and West. And West killed his team yesterday, despite leading it in scoring.

That falls on Hornets GM Jeff Bower, and the team’s owner, George Shinn. Shinn spends cash nowadays, but he’s in the NBA’s toughest market, and he’s the only NBA owner who doesn’t have an actual business outside of being an NBA owner. Not the easiest jumping off point.

And though Bower did well to put together a playoff team, he killed his squad’s chances at sustaining its station in the West — where you have to improve in the offseason just to repeat your record from the year before — by wasting all sorts of money on James Posey.

Tom Planchet of the WWL Hornets blog agrees with Dwyer:

The big trick will be fixing the problem considering the team is over the salary cap and saddled with a huge salary for Peja. And, the only young guys showing promise – Hilton and Julian – get sat down for long periods when they have some problems, so they can’t grow.

So no young guys showing promise, a center who can’t score, jump shooters who can’t shoot unless they are wide open, no one who takes it to the goal and no bench scoring equals TROUBLE.

Only Chris Paul’s greatness and a knack for winning close games (Hornets won 8 of 9 games decided by two points or less), often against teams with poor records, stood between them and the NBA Draft Lottery.

Al Sidhom, NOLA.com:

The Hornets bench has been awesome…

Unfortunately they have been playing for Denver and Dallas.

Let’s take a look at the “the Byron Scott rejects” and their playoff averages (and keep in mind this is all off the bench.)

J.R. Smith 25.3mins/ 16.0 ppg/ 4.3 rpg

Chris Anderson 21.7mins/ 6.0 ppg/ 4.7 rpg / 1.67 blocks

Brandon Bass 19.4 mins/ 8.5 ppg/ 4.5 rpg

ticktock6, Hornets Hype:

…to those who want to blow up the team THIS SECOND, remember three, no four, things:

1) The team whose 58-point-blowout-loss record we tied came back and won the next game of the series.

2) I think the Lakers recovered fine from their Finals beatdown.

3) Your lesson is right on the court in front of you. The Nuggets were embarrassed with the whole sweep and “We quit” thing last year. They didn’t trade the entire team. They made one move. One move that was the right move.

4) You’re not the GM. That’s for a reason.

Teddy Renois, The Thibodaux Daily Comet:

The Hornets dealt their injured center to Oklahoma City for Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith. As we know, the trade was nullified due to Chandler’s injury, and at the time, Hornet fans rejoiced that their big man was back.

After watching the Hornets four playoff games against Denver, I’m pretty sure some fans wish the trade had happened.

Wilcox and Smith weren’t coming to New Orleans to be the future, but they were coming to be a bandage for the Hornets’ post problems.

I don’t know if the presence of Wilcox and Smith alters the Hornets first-round playoff series with Denver, but at least they would have a presence…

It is unfair to call the Hornets’ season a disappointment if it ends tonight.

Injuries really took away any consistency, and when the injured returned, the team never meshed into a cohesive unit.

Still, the Hornets made the playoffs and have two all-stars on their roster. So with off-season tinkering, it isn’t out of the realm that this team can become a serious contender next season.

Quick hitters:

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