Game 3 Recap: The Hornets beat the Nuggets

Published: April 25, 2009

Rasual ButlerA poor start and a poor finish for the Hornets in Game 3, but they were able to do enough in between to ensure victory and get back in the series. The Nuggets unloaded a 10-0 run out of the gate, leaving all of us at the New Orleans Arena standing and scratching our heads. Sean Marks came in the game and woke the Hornets up, while James Posey also provided a spark off the bench. We outscored the Nuggets 29-21 in the second quarter, the first period we won in ten tries, and took a 50-47 lead into the half.

Chris Paul was pretty much the show in Q3, scoring 13 points and dropping 3 assists. Meanwhile, the Nuggets continued their balanced attack to keep it close. The New Orleans defense was the story for most of the fourth quarter, as the Nuggets managed just 5 points in the first 8 minutes. The Hornets led by 11 with 3:13 remaining but a sequence of unfortunate and sucky events got Denver to within one with 17 seconds left and the ball in their hands. Thankfully, Carmelo Anthony couldn’t get a good shot off and the Hornets were able to persevere, 95-93. Denver now leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 in New Orleans on Monday.

  • Chauncey Billups couldn’t be contained in Games 1 and 2, but today the Hornets held him to 16 points on just 3-of-10 shooting. He also missed a couple of free throws and turned the ball over twice, proving that he doesn’t have an invisible invincibility cloak after all. Chris Paul guarded Billups for most of the game, but he got plenty of good help defending him on pick and rolls. Bigs like David West and Tyson Chandler were effective in hedging up hard, cutting off the lane and forcing Chauncey to pick the ball up. We also seemed to force him to the sideline fairly often.

  • As promised, Byron shortened the rotation for this one, with only Marks, Posey and Antonio Daniels getting off the pine. Marks gave us 26 minutes of the best basketball he’ll ever play, finishing with 8 points (3-of-5 FGs), 6 boards, 2 blocks and a steal. The energy he brought to the floor in Q1 couldn’t have come at a better time, with Denver looking like they were going to put the game and the series away in the first half.
  • Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler played just 18 minutes, scored 2 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, turned the ball over twice and fouled out. He’s a warrior for being out there when he’s still obviously hurt, but it’s to the point where we’re better off without him on the floor. He can’t be effective and so he gets frustrated, and that doesn’t lead to anything good.
  • Yes, the officiating was horrible. Both ways. It left a bad taste in my mouth. Reading back over the notes I jotted down during the game, it seems half of them were about poor, missed or inconsistent calls. It was so unbearable that Byron Scott dropped his poker face long enough to pick up a technical in Q3 (I can’t remember the last time Byron got T’d up), and with about four minutes left in the game the whole Arena broke out into a “Refs you suck!” chant. But before anyone goes off on a rant about the refs in the comments, answer me this: what steps can the NBA take to significantly improve officiating? It’s easy to point to something and say it’s wrong, but I don’t believe this to be an easy fix.
  • Chris Paul was aggressive from the tip. When nothing else was working early, he resorted to going 1-on-5 to get us some much-needed buckets. He played all of the first half in this one and would get only two minutes of rest early in the fourth quarter. I loved that move he pulled with about 8:30 left in Q3, getting two trapping Nuggets in the air with the pass fake (visual aid here), then breezing into the lane to deliver the lob for Tyson. CP would finish with 32 points (11-of-20 FGs), 12 assists and 5 boards, but still high on the turnovers with 6.
  • West struggled. He scored 19 points and grabbed 9 boards, but he shot just 7-of-18 from the field, coughed the ball up three times, missed some point-blank looks and fouled out late. Guys like Kenyon Martin, Nene and Carmelo Anthony continue to do a solid job on West in single coverage, and there’s always a crowd waiting when he tries to get in the lane. It doesn’t help that West is back to hesitating on his jumper. Those are the best looks he’s going to get in this series; nothing to think about.
  • Peja: 4 points on 1-of-9 shooting. But if he plays defense every game like he played it in this one, I’ll live with that kind of offense. He gave Carmelo nothing easy in this one, using his length and smarts to cut off driving lanes and contest the jumper. Carmelo finished with 25 points but needed 24 shots to get them. I see Peja is also credited with 2 steals in the box score, but I could swear he came up with more than that.
  • If I were a Nuggets fan, I’d get really frustrated with those ball-hog stretches Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith are so prone to. I understand that they’ve both very talented and can often get to the basket at will or hit a deep jumper, but I have to believe that the Nuggets would be much better off if those two guys checked their egos at the door like their teammates have.
  • Posey came up big with 13 points and 9 rebounds in 23 minutes. He made some great defensive plays, but also had some costly turnovers. Bit of a roller coaster game for him, but the effort was definitely there throughout.
  • Random stuff from the Arena: A couple of birds got in the buiding somehow (Chris Andersen’s gym bag?) and were flying around throughout the game. Some funny videos on the big screen during game breaks, including one skit about trading Nuggets gear for small amounts of money (you’ll probably find that over at Swarm City soon).

Alright, let’s get to the real question: Does this win mean the Hornets are back in the series? A lot of folks here in New Orleans will be happy with the win, but I’m having a hard time getting excited about it. Does anyone think the Jazz are coming all the way back to beat the Lakers after barely winning Game 3 of that series Thursday night? Did anyone worry that the Mavs might come back from that 0-2 hole we put them in a year ago after they took Game 3 in Dallas?

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it will take more than a narrow victory like we saw today for me to believe that the Hornets can win this series. I don’t think we saw any significant momentum shift in Game 3, and I can’t imagine the Nuggets’ confidence was eroded much by the result.

Of course, that’s looking at the big picture and that’s not what the Hornets should be concerned with. They need to stay focused on one game at a time, and so for now there’s nothing but Monday night at the Arena.

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