2008-09 Game 72: Denver Nuggets 101 – New Orleans Hornets 88

Box Score | Highlights

The Denver Nuggets have answered.  With their backs against the wall they chose to fight and Denver came out swinging tonight against the New Orleans Hornets.  The Nuggets utilized a consistently solid defensive effort to a 101-88 victory in New Orleans.  It is the Nuggets first road win against a team with a winning record since February 18 and the first time they have defeated one of the other top nine teams in the west since beating the Mavs on December 15.

With Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler out George Karl chose to implement an aggressive trapping defense designed to keep Chris Paul out of the lane on the pick and roll.  Things started out a little rough as the Hornets scored two layups in their first three possessions due to the attention the Nuggets were giving Paul.  I was concerned that they would struggle attempting to execute a defense they had not utilized very infrequently and never for long stretches.

The Nuggets did a good job of adjusting on the fly and the Hornets easy looks slowly became few and far between.  As we have pointed out in the past an aggressive scheme provides the impetus to play with energy while a lazier scheme, such as switching screens, saps the intensity from a team and leads to sloppy disinterested defense.  By trapping and forcing him towards the midcourt Denver was able to disrupt the Hornets offense on the way to claiming a 28-21 lead at the end of the first quarter.  line the Nuggets were able to force Chris Paul into committing six turnovers and thanks to the harassing defense applied by Dahntay Jones, Chauncey Billups and to a lesser extent Anthony Carter Paul struggled to get anything going on offense. 

Paul did take advantage of ten trips to the free throw line, a couple of which were quite dubious, to record 19 points and he was credited with 13 assists, but he finished a game worst -19.

Offensively Carmelo had a couple of dominant stretches.  He started the game off making six of his first eight shots and scored 13 points in the first nine minutes of the game.  It was good to see Melo step up and hit some shots.  He helped set the tone for Denver on offense and let them know that even without Nene they can put points on the board.

Strangely enough the Hornets clawed back in the game in the second quarter with Chris Paul on the bench.  It was the second time in three games where Denver has allowed Antonio Daniels to make a run while Paul was sitting on the sidelines.  Both teams went small to start the second quarter with Balkman playing power forward for Denver and James Posey played the four for New Orleans.  It was the only stretch of the game where New Orleans made any shots.  When Daniels made a three just over four minutes into the quarter the Nuggets’ lead had vanished and the game was tied at 33.

The third quarter played out the same as the first with Carmelo scoring eight straight points and twelve in the quarter as the Nuggets once again took control.  Denver entered the fourth quarter up nine points, but with the sting of the loss in Phoenix still fresh in my mind and the memory of how the Hornets erased a first quarter lead quickly in the second I was far from confident. 

Fortunately Denver did not suffer from the same problem.  They came out of the break on fire hitting their first six shots and doubling their nine point advantage.  At that point it became clear New Orleans simply did not have the firepower to keep up.  Paul was at least somewhat contained, David West was playing terribly and no one else was stepping up to fill the void.  When Chris Paul was walking the ball up the court with just over six minutes left in the game and Denver up 18 I knew the Hornets did not have any fight left in them.

While tonight’s victory was far from a perfect win, it was the best effort the Nuggets had put forth from start to finish in a long time.  Fans always seem to call for their teams to play with desperation, but such a request is highly disingenuous.  Think about the times you have been desperate, and I am not talking about in seventh grade when you wanted to touch the hot girl’s booby.  I am talking about when you are out of money and payday is nor for another four days or when you are in a store and suddenly realize you are not 100% sure where your kid is.  Now imagine your boss asks you to put some desperation into the project you are working on.  Is the adrenaline rush and fear in your gut anywhere near the same level?  True desperation cannot be conjured from thin air.  Monday night Phoenix was desperate (and fortunately they were still desperate tonight as they beat the Jazz) and tonight the Nuggets were the desperate team.

Now we move from fight or flight to a prove it game.  They showed us some fight, now they have to prove to us that it was not a fluke as they must once again play without Nene on the road against a team chasing them in the standings. 

Additional Game 72 Nuggets

  • I mentioned in my preview how Chris Paul is always the best player on the floor when these two teams play and his supporting cast does enough for the Hornets to win.  Tonight I think both Chauncey Billups and Carmelo were better than Paul.  At worst they were comparable and Paul did not get much help from his teammates.  Rasual Butler is typically a Nugget killer, and he shot well when he received the ball tonight, but in over 30 minutes of floor time, he only attempted four shots.  James Posey was terrible.  We already mentioned how badly David West struggled and for some reason in the fourth quarter they kept force feeding him the ball on the right block, which made no sense.
  • I found it interesting that Karl basically shrunk his rotation down to six players in the second half after Dahntay Jones and Johan Petro left the game in the third quarter.  It was a glimpse into who Karl really trusts and I think it is safe to say he, like most of us, has lost trust in Linas Kleiza who played a paltry 6:25.
  • I do not understand why Hilton Armstrong does not get more minutes, at least against the Nuggets.  Instead of trying to prove the signing of Posey was a stroke of genius by playing small, put Armstrong in the game and let him rattle around in the lane.
  • I mentioned that the Nuggets play was far from perfect.  The fact remains that they were almost exclusively a jump shooting team.  Of their 101 points, only 30 came in the lane.  During their offensive explosion to start the fourth quarter five of their six makes were long jumpers.  I doubt anyone noticed while the game was unfolding, I know I did not, that the Nuggets only scored seven points over the final 7:38.  Even if they only go 3-6 to start the quarter the game may have been completely different.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  87.4

Defensive Efficiency:  100.7 – Solid.

Offensive Efficiency:  115.6 – Pretty efficient considering they were without their highest percentage shooter.

Featured Blogs:  Hornets 24/7 | At the Hive

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  • b.archy6

    “Should Maybyner end up missing the Hornets game the Nuggets’ chances for a win fall from unlikely to get ready to play Dallas”. I believe the last time you wrote off our Nuggs so blatantly was before the last time we played the Lakers, also a win of course. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE write them off the rest of the season…..oh wait you already did that as well!

  • BeefySwats

    Haha, touche archy6.

    Jeremy is hard on his team because he loves them (like I do) and we have all seen magnificent performances from them. We know they are capable, they just don’t show it every night.

    Anyway, amazing win on the road no matter if Peja and Chandler were out. Any time you beat a good team at home like NO is a quality win, especially with a 10+ margin of victory.

    Now, Dallas is going to be another story. Balkman and Andersen are going to have their hands full with Dampier and Bass on Friday.

  • sleepydog

    watching chris paul play my team is more frustrating than just about any other player i can think of. all of the superstars get a fair amount of ridiculous calls to go their way (except melo), but no one does so much work to try and get those fouls called as paul. it seems to me about a full third of his game is jumping/running straight into someone much bigger than him assuming he’ll get the call. which he usually does. like last night when birdman was a good foot away from him and he jumped straight sideways to go up for a layup, and somehow got the call. there was a stretch in the second quarter no one could play close d on him or there would be a foul. im proud we pretty much dominated anyways and didnt get into too much of the ‘blame the officials’ bullshit we usually do

  • Othe33

    I must admit that I wrote the Nuggs off last night as well. It’s nice to see them playing with a sense of urgency.

    Setting franchise records for wins is nice…but winning a playoff series will be the benchmark for judging this team. Anything less is not an improvement in my book.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Hey b.archy6 all I will say is I wrote that before I found out Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic were out, but that is something I should have been aware of, bad job by me. I did soften my stance on Denver’s chances in the game preview.

  • b.archy6

    Just keeping you on your toes, I read this blog everyday so I obviously value your insight. I realize that since your thoughts on the Nuggs are public you get a lot more scrutiny then the rest of us but I would just hope for a little more faith in our team.
    On another note, what are your thoughts on Utah in the playoffs? They are obviously a different team on the road and as of right now, it doesnt look like they will get homecourt advantage. What if we matched up with them, and we had homecourt? I’m deathly scared of Sloan and DWill but they just look so much worse on the road, I dont really know what to think about them come playoff time…

  • sdchlr

    Utah is going to be one of the most dangerous teams in the playoffs this year. They are like New Orleans, with much better bigs and a really sick bench. I’m not putting a whole lot of stock in their mini slump because they have been an inconsistent road team all year. In that PHX game, they choked at the end like we did and missed free throws, while Shaq is somehow making a bunch of his.

    Utah would make for a tough series although with home court I think we would definitely have the edge since, as you mentioned, we are a slightly better road team than they are. That being said, I’d still rather see someone else in the first round like Dallas or Portland.

  • b.archy6

    I would definitely rather see portland, very unlikely we would see dallas, so would you rather play houston or new orleans (healthy presumably) than Utah? I think I would take Utah over NO or Houston…

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I agree that the two best matchups for the Nuggets would be Portland and Dallas, but I think it is pretty unlikely that they end up with either one of those two.

    I do not want to see Houston because Denver has very rarely had success against Yao and the Rockets defend for 48 minutes.

    I know the Nuggets just handled New Orleans, but no one for the Hornets played well. I would not be thrilled to play New Orleans, but I think that series is probably a toss up.

    I would not be thrilled to see Utah either, but I think this Nuggets team matches up with them pretty well. Utah has not played well on the road, but their biggest problem is on the second night of back to backs. They are something like 3-15 in those games. In the playoffs they do not have to worry about back to backs.

    The dirty little secret that no one talks about is the Nuggets have been terrible at home in the playoffs. If memory serves they are 2-8 at the Pepsi Center in the playoffs the past five seasons (1-1 vs Minnesota, 0-2 vs San Antonio, 1-1 vs LA Clippers, 0-2 vs San Antonio, 0-2 vs LA Lakers). Just do not spread that around, it is meant for one of my in depth hard hitting playoff preview pieces.

  • sdchlr

    Those are some great points Jeremy, and thanks for the post. I have been racking my brain about playoffs today and wanted to see what you thought. So out of the most likely teams we’d face, I’d want to see Utah, New Orleans, and Houston in that order.

    I just think the Rockets are a nightmare matchup with Yao being out there. I really think we need layups and points in the paint to get us flowing and when you can’t get those, frustration sets in and it’s all about jumpshots (seen that movie) and a 48 minute defensive grind out which is playing right into their hands.

    With NOH and Utah it’s more difficult to tell. I’m just fearful of CP3 taking over a few games because he is ridiculous to the point of turning a bunch of bench scrubs into superstars for a night. Utah, I just think we have the best chance to beat. It wouldn’t be a lot of travel time since we’re close. They have been banged up all year but I just have faith if we score 100+ it’s over. Hopefully our defense shows up and our athletic frontcourt can out-hustle theirs.

    I still think there’s a chance we see Portland though.

  • Josh Hopp

    My best case scenario is Portland (Dallas is obviously impossible), followed by New Orleans then Utah and (heaven forbid) Houston. Utah would be real tough though. You just know Jerry Sloan would never let his guys lose against Denver. However, even if my best case scenario came to fruition, I am still shit-scared of the playoffs. I do not feel like we would win a series against anyone except Portland. Chauncey helps, but our guys are just so accustomed to sucking in the postseason and teams like Utah and NO have both won series. I would be absolutely ecstatic to get out of the first round.