Game Notes: Nuggets at Hornets
Nuggets come to the Big Easy and leave with an L.
by Allen Powell II
George Karl could barely hide his smirk when asked about his team’s impressive defense against the Jazz. Karl acknowledged that the team’s defense had been reasonably good against a Jazz team hell-bent on settling for jumpers. But, he cautioned that it would probably be another 25-30 games before he could determine whether the principles he preached in training camp had carried over.
You know those ridiculous three pointers JR Smith always takes in transition? Yeah, he practices those in warm-ups. Good times. Well, at least he spent some time shooting free throws, since he only hit 70 percent last year, and is at 50 percent so far this year.
Hornets start off with CP3, Ariza, West, Okafor and Marco. Nuggets come out with Afflalo, Sheldon Williams, Nene, Anthony and Billups.
Denver jumps out 7-0 early with pretty jumpers from Melo and Afflalo.
10:11 Ariza with an easy drive and two-handed finish. Ariza comes back a few minutes later and finds West in the lane off a baseline drive. Karl can’t be happy with how easy Ariza is getting in the lane.
Billups posts up Paul early. Ball reversal gets an easy jumper for Nene. The Hornets will live with that shot.
7:47 Nene hits another jumper. Maybe the Hornets shouldn’t live with that shot.
6:55 Ariza in the lane again, this time draws a foul on Nene trying to take a charge. Melo might want to move his feet up top. Neither team is playing great defense early.
4:46 Billups really wants to Paul on the block. CP3 is a great ballhawk, but he gives up girth and savvy to Chauncey.
4:39 Melo with a beautiful reverse spin from the triple threat position. It’s so smooth and explosive that he forces Ariza to foul him on a jumper, and then sinks both free throws.
4:26 Ariza comes right back and gives Melo a jumper at the top of the key. Ariza is a threat to score or pass on every possession right now.
Chris Paul is a master of the herky jerky dribble and change of pace. He gives Ty Lawson a little shoulder shimmy then right to left crossover to test him out. Harrington pops out to help, and Paul gives him a half spin and draws an easy foul. John Wall should take notes. Patience young fella, patience.
By the way, Lawson and Al Harrington are the first players off Denver’s bench. Seems like JR may have already found his way into Coach Karl’s doghouse.
Willie Green goes baseline completely unimpeded and crams one home easily. Yep, the Nuggets playing defense was a one game thing.
First quarter ends 27-25, Hornets up by two. Hornets lived in the lane; Nuggets lived at the free throw line. The team that corrects their problem first is probably the one that gets control of this game.
10: 36 Jerryd Bayless measures JR Smith up on the fast break and finds him wanting. Three point play.
JR Smith loves his jumper way too much. He blows by Green baseline but settles for a step back jumper when the only man in the lane for the Hornets is Jason Smith. K.Y.P.
Ty Lawson knows what to do with Jason Smith. Teardrop in the lane. 34-30 Hornets with 9:13 left.
Willie Green is the type of player that looks better with teammates who know what they’re doing. Patience on the bounce and a decent post game for Green.
CP3 is getting an extended rest thanks to solid bench play. Hornets are playing small ball with Thornton, Bayless and Green on the perimeter, and Peja and D.J. Mbenga as the bigs. Lead is up to 10 points, 42-32 New Orleans.
Paul checks back in at 7:04, Nuggets are in the penalty. Hornets are getting great shots, but they’re letting the Nuggets live at the line. Scoring with the clock stopped is the easiest way to get back in the game.
Hornets get another three pointer from Marcus Thornton. They look like Phoenix South right now, and while the Nuggets have gone small too, they aren’t competing on defense.
4:56 David West just bullies Al Harrington. Somebody should tell him that’s frowned upon in today’s society.
4:15 Another turnover by JR Smith. Hornets covert on the break, and then Paul comes down the next possession and gets right to the rim. Melo fires back by crashing into a defender, complaining about the no call, then committing a stupid foul. This Nuggets team looks mighty familiar.
3:34 Ariza back in. Wonder if Melo will guard him this time around? Starters plus Thornton for the Hornets, starters plus JR for the Nugs. Advantage Hornets.
2:55 Nuggets play decent defense, but then allow the ball to roll away from two of them while they watch. Hornets are up 53-39. George Karl is fairly low key despite his team’s struggles.
2:11 Nuggets get it down to 10 with a pretty dish from Afflalo to Melo. Emeka comes down and backs Nene down for a hook.
1:20 Paul draws a foul by stumbling off a screen, but gets a tech when he yells at the ref because the whistle took too long to come. Good tech.
5.4 seconds Chauncey has broken Paul down on twice in the last minute. Crafty vets are cool.
Hornets 59 and Nuggets 50. George Karl’s smirk makes sense right now.
10:45 Emeka Okafor does not run the floor like Tyson Chandler. No, not at all.
9:32 Hornets get a 3 on 1, but Okafor decides that reverse layup is his best shot with Melo defending. .
8:45 Melo is heating up. Two straight jumpers over outstretched hands. He practices that you know.
8:10 As fluid as the Hornets looked in the first half, they look just as off in the third quarter. Also, as one writer remarked, when Okafor gets to the rim, it’s almost like he’s prohibited from dunking.
7:03 Melo has six already in the quarter, the last one on a stroll down the baseline.
Melo with another hoop, this time a hanging left-handed layup. Nuggets aren’t playing great defense, but when you have best scoring wing in the league, sometimes you don’t need great defense. Hornets up 64-58.
Hornets are ice cold right now, and Sheldon Williams is hitting corner jumpers. Crowd is shocked, and the lead is only four. Monty Williams comes back with Thornton who had the hot hand.
Chauncey is not having a great game. He has 13 and 4 assists, but it’s come with lots of pull up threes on the break, and some bad turnovers. Ariza gets a steal and dunk, then Paul gets a bucket, lead is five.
Jason Smith with an idiotic over the back foul. Melo gets roughed up in the paint, no call. Hornets up 68-66 with 2:40 left in the quarter.
Hornets have been abysmal on offense this quarter. Very little movement, and Chris Paul hasn’t taken over at all. Hope he’s saving something for the fourth.
Denver with a beautiful two-man game between JR and Al Harrington. Yeah, I’m as surprised to write it as you are to read it.
1:10 Melo with a rocker step and a fadeway. Nobody does it better. Ariza is playing good defense, but Melo is too damn nice.
Third quarter ends with the Hornets up one 72-71. Denver seems to have shaken off the jet lag. Hornets better figure out how to keep them off the line and get CP3 in the lane.
Harrington, Melo, Lawson, Sheldon and JR out there for the Nuggets. Bayless, Mbenga, Ariza, Jason Smith and Thornton for the Hornets.
Sheldon gives the Nuggets their first lead since the first quarter on an offensive rebound and putback.
Melo is so nice from mid range. We see the Bernard King in your game Melo.
10:27 Jerryd Bayless is not a point guard in case anyone was wondering. Turnover on an easy break.
10:11 Sheldon picks up an offensive foul by getting rough in the paint, but he really is beasting on the glass tonight. He would finish with 13 boards. Too bad he didn’t do that in Game Seven for the Celtics.
Hornets are settling for contested jumpers. They aren’t falling. Also, Chris Paul may be the only Hornet who knows how to run a fast break properly. He’s not in the game. Nuggets up 77 to 74.
Hornets with another turnover, that’s four in a row. Al Harrington converts a layup on the other end and Monty Williams takes a timeout to discuss ball control, shot selection and his desire to remain undefeated. 79 to 74 Nuggets.
Okafor seals Nene in the lane for a layup, Hornets down four with the starters and Willie Green on the floor.
Chris Paul probes then finds a cutting Okafor. Turns out he can dunk.
7:10 And the Nuggets keep making shots.
6:55 Paul takes Lawson on the block, misses, but gets the follow and converts. He lets the world know that Lawson is a little man.
6:22 Paul comes around a pick in the lane and almost faints he’s so wide open. Short pull up and George Karl would like a time out to remind his team that Chris Paul in the lane means failure.
5:46 Nuggets with two offensive fouls in a row. Chauncey almost gets a tech. Paul is in the lane a lot more this quarter.
5:24 Chris Paul and David West run the pick and pop the way they always do about this time.
4:55 Ariza with the corner three off a ball reversal and the crowd goes crazy. Hornets up five, but then Afflalo scores and makes it 89 to 86 New Orleans.
3:43 Chris Paul feels the same way about the fake bounce pass that Rondo feels about the fake behind-the-back pass. Billups then fouls Paul on a corner three. That’s not a Mr. Big Shot play. Billups has 16, but has made 3 shots.
3:15 Melo abuses his defender. He does that a lot.
2:54 Melo gets trapped in front of the scorer’s table, changes his pivot foot, but gets the ref to give him a timeout. Being a superstar is nice. Hornets up 92 to 88, and The Hive is buzzing… That was beneath me.
For the record, Melo has 24 points and nine boards while has 17 points, 7 assists and 7 boards. Neither of them has played at their top level. The NBA really is fantastic.
2:10 David West ignores a wide open Okafor under the rim and sinks a fadeaway over the right shoulder. He made it, but damn that was cold.
Hornets clear out for Paul, he can’t convert. Nuggets with the ball and a chance to cut the lead to two with 1:04 left.
Melo isos Ariza, gets to the rim but gets stuffed on the reverse by Okafor. Crowd is pumped, and then West comes down and hits another fadeaway over the right shoulder. It’s bananas in here right now. I guess that last fadeaway by West was to get the range right. 43 seconds left in the game and the Hornets are up 96 to 90 and Karl wants to talk.
Oh, and Chauncey got a tech right before the timeout. Way to keep the troops in line.
Harrington wets a three pointer. Nuggets down four with 30 seconds to play. They hack West in the backcourt and put him on the line. He wets both. 99 to 93 for New Orleans. Nuggets get a turnover on the next possession.
This one is over. Hornets take it 101 to 95. Paul finishes with 18, 7 and 7, while Ariza has four steals for the second game.
The buzzword in the Hornets locker room is “trust”, mainly trust in each other and in coach Monty Williams’ gameplan. David West said that when the Hornets scoring dried up in third, the team had to trust that Williams gameplan was still viable and stick with it.
“He’s just talking about believing in the system we’re trying to build… Even when things go bad we just have to have confidence,” said West, who passed Larry Johnson for third on the Hornets all-time scoring list with his 17 points.
Chris Paul said the team is going to need that trust when the face the Spurs Saturday, in what promises to be another test. He said some folks may think Duncan is over the hill, but he doesn’t believe it.
“He’s like wine, just getting better with age,” Paul said.
Oh, and Willie Green had dunk of the night, and he said it shouldn’t have been a surprise despite his history of knee injuries.
“I can still throw one down… The knee feels good,” Green said.