Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 at 2:01 am  |  23 responses

Nuggets/Hornets Game 2 Recap

The Rebirth of Smooth

by Cub Buenning

Three nights separated the play of Games 1 & 2 of the Western Conference First-Round series between the New Orleans Hornets and the Denver Nuggets. I am sure most of you can fill in the “choir” role as I “preach” about the idiocy that is the NBA’s postseason scheduling. Too much time separates the games, but what has dominated the quiet spaces between actual basketball has been the discussion surrounding the physical nature of the series first tilt.

Were the Nuggets playing dirty?

Was Dahntay Jones being physical or just dirty?

Hornets’ Head, Byron Scott admitted that only part of Jones’ play was physical (ensuing the rest was on the dirty side), but conceded that the current NBA is not the one he cut his teeth on.

“This is so much watered down now. This isn’t a physical game. I wish they would go back to the old rules.”

Scott’s counterpart from Denver, George Karl analogized pregame that winning teams are associated with being physical, while losers are often considered dirty, and after just one game conceded that, “It may already be at that point where they don’t like us and we don’t like them.”

The integral Game 2 gave each team a chance to either solidify their impressive postseason start or the opportunity to shed their pretender status. Grit, hustle and heart would all be imperative as both teams look to take control of the seven-game series.

Much like the game just days earlier, Game 2 started off close and hard fought but with some actual fluidity to the play. Don’t be mistaken, however, as it was punctuated with bits and pieces of the physicality that the visitors took issue with earlier in the week.

Once again, it was Denver’s prodigal son, Chauncey Billups that controlled the pace of the game, scored when necessary, set up his teammates and made life tough on both ends of the court for Hornets’ star guard, Chris Paul. Mr. Big Shot outplayed Paul going for 31 points (hitting 4-6 from 3-point) in the Nuggets’ eventually easy 108-93 win.

Again, Chauncey’s box score was flawless with nary a turnover in either of the series’ first two games. (For the record, CB7 has 67 points, 12 assists and 0 TOs for the two-game set in Denver)

“I’m in a nice groove right now, but it’s really not all me, we’re playing well right now.”

Both ends of the court were dominated by the home team, as the Nuggets have proved to be far superior to their opponents in every facet of the game taking an eight-point lead into halftime. They continued to physically and mentally frustrate Paul whether it was Jones or Billups drawing the defensive assignment. The Hornets turned the ball over three times as often (15:5), which led to a huge advantage for Denver in points off turnovers.

“It has nothing to do with the physical stuff tonight,” mentioned Coach Scott postgame. “We had too many turnovers and defensive lapses.”

Although, his final numbers were more than respectable, Hornets’ forward David West again struggled to hit open shots, missing 11 of his first 17 attempts from the field. With little to no depth coming from Coach Scott’s bench, West’s ability to efficiently score is paramount for the Hornets to even keep one game close.

After a poor-shooting effort in Game 1, Carmelo Anthony bounced back with a patient, energetic and efficient night (scoring 22 points and dishing 9 assists out of constant double teams). Melo had a stand-out third quarter stretch while the Hornets were hitting shots of their own, hitting shots combined with an effort on the defensive end that continues to impress.

“We wanted to come out aggressive,” recalled Anthony after the win. “But we’re playing our best defense of the year.”

Both teams shot the ball extremely well from long-range (each went 9-16); about the only thing that kept the Hornets still a buzzin’ through the game’s first twenty-four minutes.

Tonight, again, things were physical. There was a constant fear that control over the game might slip through the referees’ grasp, but it was Billups, the most experienced player on the court that not only took control, but again proved the difference.

“He’s playing really well; well as you can play right now,” reflected Paul when discussing Billups’ first two games. “Not too much you can do.”

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  • http://www.lkz.ch/basket Darksaber

    JEeeeeeezus! Inside Nba is hilarious again tonight. They are just analyzing the Denver win now, and Chuck told a story about the single hardest job he had in his youth. It seems Charles was *wait for it* a PIPE BEATER. Hilarity ensued as soon as he said that one. You could even hear the cameramen and crew laughing their butts off. Wooohooo.

  • http://slamonline.com James The Balla

    Second. Susan Boyle!! I was at work and missed the game but I would really like all of the other series except for the lakers/jazz to go to 7 games. Beat each other up folks. So CP3 needs a big game on his home floor.

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton

    Chauncey Billups in the last 2 games: 67 points, 12 assists…ZERO TURNOVERS.
    Nuggets fans just jizzed in their pants.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Blinguo

    Nuggets are doing the Hornets thing, of last year. Peja played well up to par instead of faltering and they still couldn’t make it a game. Denver with too much depth at all positions. Barkley said it best, Chris Paul can’t do it all by himself, its physically impossible. Get everyone going on offense, then try to shut down (or make any attempts at least) on Chauncey. Forget assists to turnover ratios, check CP’s steals stats. Mr. 1 per game at least record setter got a donut spot in his stat line. He had a buncha steals in the blowout game 1 though, just from sloppier play when the game’s decided or early before it was decided, probably. So can Denver get past round 2, unlike NOH ’08, and make a run at the West title-hanging with the Lakers is the question.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Blinguo

    And yeah, good TNT post-game. “Pick a charity already Chuck. How about the Pipe-Bangers Association of America?”

  • underdog

    It’s amazing how Billups single handedly took over the leading role of the Nuggets for the playoffs. His playoff experience is invaluable.

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    With Deron having a heck of a series so far in LAI, TP killing against the Mavs, and Chaunchey ouplaying CP is this the right time to open up the best PG discussion once again?

  • Lz – Cphfinest3


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  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Someone just stab me now. Please.

  • German Reignman

    @TAD: I can`t remember the details … which team traded chauncey for what player ? sorry I had to go there

  • seppo

    All of a sudden Chris Paul isn´t nearly as good as promoted. In playoff games every possession counts and Paul can´t get all the easy points he gets during the second and third quarters of meaningless regular season games where teams just run up and down without much regard for defense. Deron Williams, Tony Parker and Chauncey Billups are clearly better than Paul.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Seppo: Um, no. These first two games aside, Paul is still that dude. I’m looking more at the play of his teammates like West, Chandler, Peja, etc. more than Chris. He cannot be expected to always carry them every game. That said, Paul clearly struggles against bigger PG’s like Deron and Chauncey. He needs to figure this out if the Hornets expect to contend.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    I gotta give some respect to Melo’s passing. In terms of skill set, he’s actually probably closer to a two guard than a power forward. He’s great to watch when he’s not forcing things.
    Chris Paul needs to find a new team, NO is garbage.

  • Drew

    My favorite part of being at the last two games (other than the Nugs looking really good) was Cartman on the jumbotron leading the crowd in a “Go Nuggets Go” cheer.

  • ti-sizz

    forizzle! I actually thought the Hornets would give up some kind of a fight. Now they’ve all gone and messed up my playoff predictions of DEnver in 6.. when apparently the Nuggets have the broom out and ready for SPRING CLEANING! wooooh!!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    The Hornets clearly could have used the Birdman. He is putting the D in Denver.

  • Drew

    People shouldn’t be down on Paul. He has been carying that team. Their only offense is when he drives the lane and either has an open shot or dishes it off. He has had a fair number of turnovers, but the lack of supporting cast has really hurt him.

  • seppo

    Chris Paul will never lead a team to the finals. Not as the number one guy on his team. He is just too small and his game is too unorthodox.

  • http://nicekicks.com MeloMan13

    so much is said about Billups (and rightfully so) but Melo is probably playin the best ball of his career. not scoring wise but all around. his defense is lightyears ahead of how it used to be and hes not forcing anything. expect abreakout game from him or Jr soon

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    Seppo is dumb. Paul has done a lot with a relatively weak team. I mean, the best players he’s ever had on his team are David West and Peja’s corpse.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    I with you Melo man, I think JR will have one of those games with 6-7 threes in like 28 minutes and blow thew doors off this series.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Double R

    @Cub: I hear what you saying about the days between games but the NBA especially for the first round, kind of have to schedule the games that way. Had they schedule the Nuggets/Hornets game for Tuesday, that would have been four games on at around same time competing for viewers. With that said the time between games in the finals could be shorten