Hornets vs. Nuggets: Friday News Wrap

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

A.M. Updates:

John Reid, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

After scoring 36 points in Game 1, Billups led the Nuggets with 31 in Game 2. He has made 12 of 15 3-point attempts in the series.

“He is playing as well as you can play right now,” Paul said. “Not much you can do. But we’ve got to be a little more aggressive, pick up guys earlier. We’ve got to get to the line and get some easy baskets.”

The Nuggets have not allowed easy baskets. After the Hornets averaged 95.8 points in the regular season, the Nuggets’ have limited them to 88.5…

All-Star forward David West also has struggled in the series. He is shooting 36 percent and averaging 16.5 points. During the regular season, he averaged 21 points and made 47 percent of his shots.

“We have to run some stuff to make them play defense,” West said. “There was a few times (Wednesday night) when their guys on the weak side of their coverage were resting. We can’t be so predictable. I’ve missed some shots, but the entire offense is out of sync.”

Anthony Cotton, The Denver Post:

“It’s great to be Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson (multiple championship winners in San Antonio and Los Angeles, respectively), and have the best players and the best team year in and year out, but most of us who coach in the NBA have to paint a picture every day and every night and every game,” Karl said. “Our picture doesn’t have as many pieces already painted as those really good teams, but we feel really good at getting that done.

“The last couple of years there was a lot of fear going into the game. We knew, and our opponents knew, that there were a lot of holes that could be opened up, that needed to be plugged up as the game went on. That doesn’t happen as much this year.”…

Scott admitted that was offset by the 17 turnovers his team made, as well as a porous defense that allowed Denver to make 50 percent of its shots.

To that end, Scott said in many ways, the hole New Orleans finds itself in is of its own making, and not necessarily because of the Nuggets’ superiority.

“Those are all things we can control,” Scott said. “I’m OK, I really am. I see the progress we made between Games 1 and 2 and I see the adjustments we have to make for Games 3 and 4.”

Bradley Handwerger, WWL-TV.com:

Losing by 29 points and 15 points on the road, well, that’s part of postseason, right? Those weren’t home losses and can be atoned for on Saturday and Monday, both games of which are at the New Orleans Arena, right?

But this is different. This is New Orleans and when there’s a fight from every direction for the entertainment dollar, you better entertain.

Lately, the Hornets haven’t been entertaining.

Not good, not when this weekend gives New Orleanians a bevy of choices to choose from.

There’s the Hornets’ third game against Denver.

There’s the Zurich Classic at the TPC on the West bank.

There’s the NFL Draft, that time of year when most Saints fans still have hope.

And there’s Jazz Fest, where the cochon de lait poboy and crawfish bread will keep you coming back for more.

From John Reid in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

“You look at us last year against the Spurs and I think that is why we can hold our heads up,” Paul said. “We won the first two games at home and everyone was saying it was over and the games in that series weren’t very close. Like coach keeps saying, they won two games at home and held serve.”

John Henderson, The Denver Post:

Chauncey Billups taking care of the ball like it’s the Hope Diamond. In two playoff games, over 69 minutes and 38 seconds, Billups has committed zero turnovers. Nada.

Coach George Karl, one of the Yodas of NBA coaching, couldn’t remember seeing that in his career.

“Probably not,” Karl said after the team’s film sessions Thursday. “I’m sure there have been, but not one who has the ball in his hands as much as Chauncey does. I have a feeling (John) Stockton might’ve done it, or Magic (Johnson). There’s probably someone out there who did it, but to do it and score as efficiently . . . in these two games, when we needed a basket we’ve gotten it because of Chauncey.”

Brett Martel, Associated Press (SunHerald.com):

…while many see Paul as the best point guard in the world, Billups has outplayed him so far.

“I got a huge size advantage on Chris,” said Billups, who at 6-foot-3 is three inches taller than Paul. “One thing I know is he doesn’t want to get in foul trouble. He is very important to their team, so I try to attack him and make him play defense when he is guarding me because he is such a tough cover for us on the other end. I try to wear him down the best I can.”

Jimmy Smith, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Count Nuggets Coach George Karl among (J.R.) Smith’s growing legion of cringers when he shoots. As with Scott, whose coaching temperament alongside Smith’s on-court persona was a typical oil-and-water mixture, Karl’s relationship with Smith has been somewhat icy.

Earlier this season, for example, the two were not speaking. There has been a thaw lately, and Karl chuckles when asked to characterize his relationship with his young sharpshooter at this very moment.

“Interesting would be a good word I’d use,” Karl said. “It’s always interesting with young talented players who kind of don’t always want to stay in the fundamental arenas coaches want to stay in. And I think we both have compromised.

“I’ve let him do things I probably haven’t let anyone in my career do. And I think he’s also come to us a little bit on being more of a playmaker, slowing down a little bit, don’t try to score 50; 30 is OK. I don’t think the progress can be documented as a quick growth, but definitely every year I think we’re better off and in a better place than at the beginning of the year.”…

“His growth hasn’t surprised me one bit,” Scott said. “I said when we had him that he has the capability of being an unbelievable two guard with his size, his speed, his range. It was all about J.R. kind of growing up and working on his game. And I think he’ll be the first to admit he’s matured in the last couple of seasons, and he’s playing close to his potential.”

David Gladow, NOLA.com:

Now I’m not going to completely write (the Hornets) off, but things sure don’t look good at present. I’ve seen several series turn on a dime once a team gets back on its home court, but ask yourself this: how good has New Orleans been at defending its home court this season? That should give anyone pause before attempting to pump sunshine.

At The Hive on Game 2:

(Tyson Chandler is) clearly not right, so I’m impressed that he finished with 11 boards (4 offensive). Yet, there were numerous instances where he was just flat beat on the boards. TC finished with a solid night offensively, guiding in quite a few wayward Chris Paul lobs. And last but not least, he had an outstanding night on defense. Nene shooting 4-13 is an easily forgotten aspect of the blowout (Nene finished 3-12 with 5 points if you exclude a mind-bogglingly amazing pass from Anthony Carter). So at least that aspect of Chandler’s game is in great form…

The big man rotation still puzzles me immensely. Melvin Ely and Sean Marks played huge, semi-effective minutes to close out the regular season. Suddenly, they’re both supplanted by Hilton Armstrong, who’s playing like garbage? It doesn’t make much sense…

(Byron Scott is) the only guy who deserves some semblance of praise. Heading into the game, Byron was tasked with three major adjustments- get David West untracked, get the 3 pt shooting untracked, and guard Chauncey Billups. In my mind, he went 2 for 3.

Hornets quotes from Chris Dempsey in The Denver Post:

“We play better in New Orleans, there’s no doubt about that,” coach Byron Scott said. “Our fans have been fantastic all season long. So, it’s a challenge and we’re looking forward to it.”…

“All they did was what they were supposed to do, they took care of home,” Scott said. “Our objective was to come in (Denver) and win a game. We didn’t get it done. They took care of home, so we got to go do the same.”…

“That’s one thing about this team, we’re going to continue to fight,” Paul said. “You’re not going to have us down until it’s four games to whatever and zero seconds on the clock. We’re going to keep playing.”

But though some optimism remains, there are those who acknowledge big changes are needed if they are to climb back into the series. Forward David West said his team’s approach was “predictable.”

“We’ll have to watch tape,” West said. “I thought we played a little bit better (in Game 2), but I don’t think we did what we wanted. We wanted to limit Carmelo (Anthony’s) touches. We weren’t able to do that. But we’re just going to have to continue to fight.”

Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company with more Game 2 thoughts:

I have said that Kenyon Martin seems to have been created to defend David West.  Well, Jones was pretty well designed for guarding Chris Paul.  I am not saying Jones can take Paul one on one and take him out of the game.  No one individual can.  Dahntay needs, and receives a lot of help from his teammates, but he has enough quickness to hound Paul while possessing the size and strength to absorb the contact Paul likes to create and still recover to either challenge the shot or handle the change of direction…

Hornets fans are doing a lot of complaining about the officiating in game two.  Nuggets fans never expected to be on the other side of that fence in the playoffs.  The biggest complaint I have read are about how the Nuggets have drawn offensive fouls with their feet moving.  The Hornets have had a very difficult time clearing space to get their shots off.  As a result they have been pushing with their off arm quite a bit and that is a foul.  We have seen Melo called for doing it all season long.

Mindboggling Game Stats:
Pace Factor:  86.9 – Tied for the third slowest paced game for a game in Denver this season with game 28 against Portland.  The two slowest paced home games this season were game 38 versus Detroit, 86.3 and game 68 when New Jersey came to town with a pace factor of 86.6.  By the way, the Nuggets won three of those four games. 

Defensive Efficiency:  107.0 – Garbage time pulled this number down a little, but still a solid rating.

Offensive Efficiency:  124.3 – Actually better than game one, 122.6.

Also from that post, Game 4 info:

With the Jazz defeating the Lakers in Utah tonight Game four of this series on Monday, April 27 in New Orleans will be played at 6:30 Mountain time and broadcast on NBATV instead of TNT as the Lakers get that spot.  It will also air locally on Altitude.

That means Monday’s game will tip at 7:30 p.m. Central, and I’m guessing it will also be broadcast locally on CST.

From Basketbawful yesterday:

The New Orleans Hornets: And to think, people were calling this team “great” as recently as earlier this season. But last night they suffered their second straight double-digit loss in Denver to fall behind 2-0 in their best-of-seven first round series with the Nuggets. And — get this! — Chauncey Billups is killing Chris Paul. KILLING HIM. Billups, who scored 36 points and went 8-for-9 from beyond the arc in Game 1, scored a game-high 31 points while going 8-for-15 from the field, 4-for-6 from three and 11-for-11 from the line. Meanwhile, CP3 scored only 14 (5-for-11) and had a game-high 5 turnovers…nearly equaling the output of the entire Nuggets team. And to think, I said Paul was going to make Chauncey look old in this series. What a boner!

On the subject of TOs, New Orleans committed 17, which led to 23 bonus points for the Nuggets. Denver, on the other hand, bumbled the ball away only 6 times, giving up a single point. The playoffs are all about ball control…and the Hornets are way out of control.

Quick hitter:

P.M. Updates:

Posted at 12:43 p.m. Central.

To start, more walls from Dariusz:

John Hollinger, ESPN.com:

…for the Lakers, Cavs or Nuggets to lose their series would be virtually unprecedented — only the 1994 Nuggets, who beat top-seeded Seattle after dropping the first two games in a best-of-five series, managed to overcome a 2-0 deficit as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed.

Thus, pencil in the Lakers, Cavs and Nuggets for Round 2. Heck, use a Sharpie if you want.

Guerry Smith, New Orleans Sports Examiner:

In New Orleans, the Hornets have to slow down the Denver scoring machine (113 and 108 points in the first two games) while finding a way to get easier baskets themselves. It’s a simple as  holding serve at home the same way the Nuggets did, right?

Um, nothing is impossible, but this is pretty close…

Only seven of the 50 teams that won the first two games of a playoff series in the past five years ended up losing. Only one team got hammered like the Hornets twice in a row and came back to win – San Antonio against New Orleans last year.

Unlike the Spurs, the Hornets don’t have a pedigree of three NBA titles in the past five years to fall back upon as they try to recover.

Even if New Orleans wins the next two games, it has to win at least once in Denver. The Hornets are 1-10 on the road in the playoffs since moving to the Crescent City.

Sports have no script, but the writing is on the wall for this series.

A key sequence from Game 2 (via Dime Magazine):

(Damn shame Byron didn’t call timeout after Nene’s bucket, especially since Billups had converted a three-point play on Denver’s previous trip. That run right there opened the game up.)

Quick hitters:

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