Hornets vs. Nuggets: Monday News Wrap

(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:

Who were the Nuggets playing Sunday, Rangeview High School? Chauncey Billups lit up the New Orleans Hornets as if he were back playing for George Washington, scoring a game-high 36 points in Denver’s Game 1 playoff victory, a 113-84 rout of No. 7-seeded New Orleans…

“It was one of those special nights,” Billups said. “I just know the importance of the playoffs. I’m just very focused at this time of year, because one possession, one missed rebound, can cost you a series. Tonight was a special night.

“You’d like to think you can do it again, but you probably can’t. I had a great time.”…

But there’s no question that to win this series, Denver will have to get more from Carmelo Anthony. In the first half, in fact, he had two airballs. Anthony finished 4-for-12 from the field for 13 points.

From the AP game report:

“I say all the time (Chauncey’s) a winner but he doesn’t have a lot of skills,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Tonight he had a lot of skills.”…

“That’s the best thing about tonight: we lost by 29 points tonight, but it’s just 1-0,” Paul said…

Carmelo Anthony scored 13 on 4-of-12 shooting but said he wasn’t bothered by his sub-par offense.

“Tonight, I didn’t make a lot of shots that I normally make. That’s a good thing. Chauncey stepped up, J.R. stepped up. As a team we played defense,” Anthony said. “As far as me, I’m not really worrying about me. I know what I can do out there.”…

Grammy-award winning rapper Lil Wayne, a native of New Orleans, had a front-row seat. … A fan threw a bottle on the floor in the closing minutes but nobody was struck on the court, and Paul said a fan threw a giveaway towel in his face at halftime.

Chris Tomasson, INDenver Times:

Once, when Billups was shooting free throws in the third quarter, the fans chanted, “MVP, MVP, MVP.’’…

“It’s special, especially for somebody like me that grew up here all my life and rooted for the hometown team all my life,’’ said Billups, a Denver native who also had played for the Nuggets from 1998-2000, but didn’t appear in the playoffs. “For me to have a chance to be playing in the playoffs on a really good team at home, in front of all my family and all my fans, it’s special. It’s just a feeling that you have playing at home that not a lot of people get to experience.’’…

Perhaps the only negative of the night for the Nuggets was some behavior by fans. Paul said one threw a towel that hit his face as he was leaving he court during halftime. And late in the game, a fan was arrested after throwing a plastic beer bottle onto the court.

“It’s unfortunate because I know here in Denver they’ve got great fans,” said New Orleans coach Byron Scott. “It’s unfortunate you got one (jerk) throwing stuff. It’s unfortunate something like that happens. The good thing is nobody got hit.”

Aaron Lopez, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

“I think (Chris Andersen has) done a hell of a job (in Denver),” Hornets Coach Byron Scott said. “But if we had it to do over again, after seeing how he’s playing, of course we would have kept him.”…

Nuggets defensive stopper Dahntay Jones drew the initial assignment of covering Hornets point guard Chris Paul.

Karl considered starting J.R. Smith in place of Jones, but opted to stick with the starting lineup that helped the Nuggets win nine of 11 games down the stretch.

Karl also hoped to slow Paul by using different big men to cover the high pick-and-roll. Those included Nene, Kenyon Martin and Andersen.

“I like the idea of having different faces on Paul,” Karl said. “If he has one of those great games going, we’re going to have to figure out something in the middle of the game.”

Chris Dempsey, The Denver Post:

David West began the first-round playoff series against the Nuggets with Kenyon Martin firmly attached to his hip.

West never could completely shake him off Sunday night.

The result was a wasteland performance, full of missed shots, a few turnovers and general frustration.

West is an all-star. Stars shine best when the lights are the brightest. At least, that’s supposed to be the case.

West, however, couldn’t find the range, scoring 12 points and hitting just 4-of-16 shots from the field in the Hornets’ blowout loss in Game 1 at the Pepsi Center. Just four points came in the second half, and none of those were in the fourth quarter.

“Kenyon’s ‘D’ on West, you can’t do it better,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We had a very good defensive game.”

Jimmy Smith, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

“You won’t see another one (blowout),” Billups said. “Game 2 is the biggest game of the series.”

Hornets Coach Byron Scott was hoping that his team, burdened this season by expectations of a possible NBA championship, would come out playing with an easier sense of purpose in a first-round matchup against a team few were giving the Hornets a chance of beating.

“I haven’t read any publications that had us winning this series,” he said. “There’s no pressure on us to just go out there and play free and loose and just have some fun and enjoy the moment. But also with the type of confidence we have in each other. We know we can win, but it’s just a matter of us going out there and playing basketball the way we’re capable of playing.”

John Reid with a bunch of Hornets quotes in the Times-Picayune:

David West:
“There were a few shots that I thought I rushed. He (Kenyon Martin) played good solid defense. I could have got some better looks. In order for us to get going offensively against this team, we’re going have to make sure that the ball touches both sides of the floor. We’re not going to be able to beat them with making just one or two passes.”

Rasual Butler:
“Chauncey got it going early. You have to respect his ability to put the ball on the floor. With him coming at me in transition and he was able to pull up over my length. I really don’t know what more to do. I need to hear more communication from the guys behind me to know which way to push, so I get up and pressure him more when he gets it going like that.”

Tyson Chandler:
“I feel OK. I told myself that I’m going to play and I’m not going to worry about it (inflamed left ankle). When I get out there, I’m not going to make excuses. I’ve just got to deal with it because it’s not going to go away.”

Byron Scott:
“I think it’s easier to get your butt kicked like this and kind of regroup then lose a nail biter. But these guys will get a chance to see a lot of tape the next few days. But we kind of got our butts handed to us tonight.”

Chris Paul:
“It’s not about how much you win or lose by, it’s about letting that game go and getting ready for the next one. We’re going to need everybody. I just think we have to be more aggressive. David West said we are going to need everyone. I can’t score 30, he can’t score 30; we just everyone to be out there and be aggressive and make our persence felt. Even though we are a jump shooting team, we got to find more ways to get into the lane.”

Nuggets quotes in the T-P:

Chauncey Billups:
“I just know the importance of (the playoffs). One missed shot or one missed rebound or one miscommunication on defense can cost you a series… I’ve been shooting that shot since high school. That’s a comfort zone shot for me, but it doesn’t go in all the time. I’ve got myself in a lot of trouble shooting that shot before.”

Carmelo Anthony:
“We’re humble. We had the first game at home and we took care of business. I don’t think we’re going to get cocky or arrogant… In the past, if I scored 13 points, we’d probably be losing by 20. Now I can score 13 points and not have to play in the fourth quarter. That’s a great feeling.”

George Karl:
“I was a little surprised when coach Scott bailed when he did in the fourth quarter.”

Kenyon Martin:
“I was just trying to make it tough as possible on (David West). He’s a great player. He’s an all-star in this league. I didn’t want to give him anything that he does well, which is spot-up and shoot. Just trying to make him make more than one move.”

Woody Paige, The Denver Post:

Bigg Nene was the best in a supporting role. He totally outplayed New Orleans center Tyson Chandler, who was returning from an ankle injury and had six points, five rebounds and three turnovers. Nene switched well on the pick-and-roll and created problems for Hornets guard Chris Paul. Nene was on the boards, on the run and on his game.

And he came up with a double- double — 12 points and 14 rebounds…

The NBA used to pick the comeback player of the year in the 1980s, but the award mostly was reserved for guys who were recovering from drug abuse and contract problems. So the designation was changed to “most improved player.”

Now the honor is bestowed on players who were the last man on the bench and moved up to No. 10, or a guard who missed 30 games with a pinkie problem.

How about paying tribute to a player who beat cancer?

The NBA should come up with an award for a player who could have died or might never have walked again, a player who couldn’t be expected to play quality basketball the next season, much less someone who would play 77 games, start at the grueling position of center, finish second among all NBA players in shooting percentage, and average almost 15 points and eight rebounds a game, and be one of the significant players on a team that won 54 games and ended up as a No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

Bits and pieces from Jimmy Smith’s article in the Times-Picayune:

With about 40 seconds remaining in the game, a bottle full of beer flew past the New Orleans bench and landed on the floor, the second incident of an object being thrown at the Hornets during the game.

Paul was hit in the face by a towel thrown by a fan as he left the court at halftime.

“I guess,” Paul said afterward of the beer bottle toss, “they thought we could come back. We got it down to 28 with about two minutes left.”…

“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Billups said. “People are going to talk about that I hit shots, that I hit 3s. But that was secondary. Our defense is what really won this game.”…

“I thought Kenyon did a really good job,” Scott said. “The one thing we have to do with D-West is get him moving a little more. He was too stationary and that’s easy for Kenyon to guard. But you’ve got to give Kenyon a lot of respect on that end of the floor. He’s a very good defender, strong and quick. So if you don’t give him much movement, stand around and just try to pound it inside, he’s not going to give a whole lot of ground.”…

Now the Hornets have to wait three days to atone for Sunday night’s performance. Less than 30 minutes after the game, it was already forgotten in Paul’s mind.

“That’s the best thing about this situation,” he said. “We lose by 29 points tonight, but it’s still just 1-0. So we come back and play Wednesday.

“I think this just makes you more hungry. Last year, playing against the Spurs and Dallas that’s the biggest thing I learned. It’s not by how many you win or lose by, it’s about letting that game go and getting the next one.”

From At The Hive’s game recap:

Kenyon Martin Owned David West
I’m assuming Byron Scott does not want to hurt David West’s pride, and thus, will go to him many times in Game 2. From what I saw in Game 1, the West-Martin matchup has no chance of success. Whatsover. Zero. That’s how amazing Martin’s defense was on West. He bodied him out of position, forced him out to 15 feet on every play, and made him take horrific fadeaways. West generally doesn’t like to pass unless he’s doubled, and Denver took full advantage of this. DX turned into an offensive black hole and got dominated by Kenyon Martin. I don’t see it changing. If West is going to produce anything on Wednesday, it will be through Chris Paul’s creation.

Tyson Chandler is nowhere close to Tyson Chandler
He’s not going for rebounds, he’s not going for blocks, he’s not playing good defense on Nene. There is something seriously wrong with his leg/ankle/whatever else. The more I think about it, the more that rescinded OKC trade makes sense. I mean think about it. An OKC physician literally put his career on the line by calling off the trade. There’s no way he does that without serious, legitimate concerns; I don’t buy that a physician puts his career on the line just to take the fall for a front office with cold feet. Well, anyways, it doesn’t look like we’ll have the real Tyson Chandler for the rest of this series.

Sam Adams, INDenver Times:

With New Orleans trailing by 18 points, Paul engaged in a lengthy conversation with Hornets coach Byron Scott on the sideline before the start of the fourth quarter…

When play resumed, Paul was on the bench. So were four other Hornets starters – David West, Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler and Rasual Butler. West and Stojakovic combined to shoot nine of 26 from the floor – with West missing 12 of his 16 shot attempts.

Chandler did more fouling than scoring and rebounding, and Butler’s eyes were stuffed with three-pointers off Billups’ fingertips…

New Orleans had a regular-season record of 7-18 when its opponents scored 100 or more points. Denver had gone 44-8 during the regular season when it scored 100 or more points. Those two stats met head-to-head Sunday night and resulted in a Nuggets blowout.

Dave Krieger, The Denver Post:

For the last five years, this has been the formula for stopping the Nuggets in the postseason. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich perfected it. Everybody else copied it. Stop Melo and you take the heart out of the Nuggets.

There’s a difference this year and his name is Chauncey Billups.

Jeremy Wagner for the Daily Dime (#3):

More important than the baskets he made was his vocal leadership. Billups was constantly communicating with his teammates on the court giving encouragement and instruction. He was teaching this perennial playoff flop how to win.

More from Wagner at Roundball Mining Company:

We have talked about how the Nuggets can play great defense when they are focused.  Tonight was a great defensive effort from everyone.  Carmelo had a couple of moments that had me going nuts (both switches for no reason), but from start to finish I believe this was his best defensive game of his NBA career…

Whenever two teams play each other for a week or two they develop some bad blood and you get some shoving matches, harsh words and intense glares.  Tonight’s game felt like game four from that standpoint.  It was very physical and while a player like Tyson Chandler was pushing and bumping into people just for the sake of appearing physical, the Nuggets played the game with physicality.  What I mean by that is defensively and on the boards they made sure they accomplished what they wanted whether holding their ground or clearing space.  They were not bumping into other players away from the ball just to be physical, they were playing basketball physically.

Denver Stiffs:

Even though Chauncey Billups shot a remarkable 8-9 from the three-point line en route to 36 points while J.R. Smith dropped in 19 off the bench (including a ghastly 0-7 shooting night from behind the arc), this game was all about defense. Maybe I’m saying this because this was the Nuggets first home playoff game in 21 years and everything is magnified. Or maybe it’s because I was sitting a little closer than usual. But given the stakes and the atmosphere, I thought the Nuggets played the most comprehensive defensive game that I’ve ever seen in 33 years of following this franchise…

As my friend who accompanied me to the game said before the final buzzer went off: “This is the most fun I’ve had at a Nuggets game since Robert Pack dunked on Shawn Kemp.”

NBA Commish David Stern was in attendance last night and spoke about Carmelo Anthony. This from Chris Dempsey in The Denver Post:

“We’ve had a number of conversations over the years, in a positive way,” Stern said. “I find him to be an engaging young man. At some point I told him he’s got to run out of cousins eventually. But I enjoy him, I enjoyed his Olympic experience, I enjoy what he’s doing for the team now and the place he’s taking.”

Jim Armstrong, The Denver Post:

My favorite Nuggets stat from the regular season? They were 45-3 when they took a lead into the fourth quarter. Only Cleveland was better, at 55-3. Moral to the story: These guys are closers.

Aaron J. Lopez, INDenver Times:

With West struggling to find a comfort zone, the Hornets became one-dimensional. At one point in the third quarter, point guard Chris Paul had directly or indirectly accounted for 40 of New Orleans’ 56 points, scoring 17 points and handing out 10 assists (three of the assists led to three-pointers).

If the Hornets are going to steal Game 2 on Wednesday, Paul will need more help from his supporting cast. It’s not going to be easy with Martin setting the tone in the paint, while letting the rest of his teammates fill up the stat sheet.

bigindian15 in our Game On comments last night:

WHY IS DEVIN BROWN IN THERE!!! WHY WHY WHY WHY WHYYYYYYYY!!! Everyone he’s guarding is getting whatever he wants, he keeps turning it over, and he’s UGLY! WHYYYYYYY

Quick hitters:

P.M. Updates:

Posted at 12:53 p.m. Central.

Backing track: Another Best of New Orleans Blog scuttlecast, this time featuring Bradley Handwerger from WWL-TV.com, Jeremy from Roundball Mining Company, and lots of Game 1 talk.

ticktock6, Hornets Hype:

– This is going to come down to how well this team can channel anger. If they can do it like they did against Dallas last weekend (after the Mavs showboated and posed and generally acted a fool in Part One of the home and home), or the Orlando Magic Christmas Massacre payback game, or the two home victories against the Spurs this season, they’re golden. What they cannot do is fall apart emotionally.

– Someone on Twitter asked me, if it was just me and Devin Brown in an elevator, what would I say to him?… And you know, he might not be a bad guy. And I would never say the things I say about him to his face. But it’s like, don’t hate the player, hate the game. So. I don’t hate Devin Brown. I hate that Byron Scott thought he was a key reserve in this game.

– I can’t believe this game was officiated the way it was with David Stern physically in the building. I can only conclude he just doesn’t care about the sad state of things. You don’t call the Hornets bigs for touch fouls (well, except in the case of Sean Marks, who didn’t actually touch anyone on the replay), and then try to make up for it on the other end by whistling Denver for a phantom charge or reach-in by the three point line. How about calling some of the contact in the paint? Meanwhile you have your TNT announcers perpetuating this nonsense by saying, “Now this is playoff basketball!” as players are wrestling with each other for position and people are getting clobbered over the head on the way to the basket. No. This is how people get hurt.

Cub Benning, SLAM Online:

Last year, the Hornets were the upstart, Western Conference team just a sniff away from the conference finals. But a year (and 83 games) later, it appears the roles of the teams in this series may have reversed.

Can one guy make that much a difference?

John DeShazier, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Does anyone remember the scores of the three games New Orleans won against San Antonio last season in the Western Conference semifinals? Or is the fact that the Spurs took the series 4-3 the lasting memory that sticks?

Just for a refresher, the Hornets spanked the Spurs 101-82, 102-84 and 101-79, respectively, in the New Orleans Arena. The Spurs were given up for dead after the first two losses and, after breathing life into the series by winning two in San Antonio, again given a dire prognosis after the third loss.

But rather than simply prolong the inevitable by winning Game 6 at home, the Spurs pooled the energy they’d saved in the three blowout losses in New Orleans, orchestrated the one stand they needed and won Game 7. And all the while, after each game the Spurs won or lost their veteran players kept reiterating – no matter how embarrassing was the loss – that it only was one game, that the series wasn’t over, that there still was time.

That’s what the Hornets will, and should, be saying to themselves until they get another shot at the Nuggets on Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center. Losing by nine or 29 points doesn’t matter at this time of the season because both results mean the same thing. It’s only one loss.

Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com:

Particularly while the outcome was still in doubt, this may have been the most physical and confrontational Game 1 of the weekend in the NBA. Almost from the get-go, there was jawing between players on both sides, as well as several hard fouls. Six technical fouls were whistled, with one apiece on the Hornets’ Chris Paul and Sean Marks.

“It’s playoff basketball,” downplayed Billups at halftime, saying that some of it was expected given the increased intensity with so much at stake in the postseason.

Quick hitters:

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