Nuggets/Hornets Game Four and Five Schedule

The NBA has announced the scenarios for the start time for the fourth and fifth games of the Denver Nuggets/New Orleans Hornets first round series.

Start time and network assignment for game four on Monday, April 27 in New Orleans depends on whether or not the Jazz can defeat the Lakers at least once.  A fifth game in the Lakers/Jazz series would bump the Nuggets/Hornets off TNT and on to NBATV with a starting time of 6:30 PM Mountain time.  If the Lakers sweep the Jazz Denver will play the Hornets at 7:30 PM Mountain on TNT.  

For game five in Denver on Wednesday, April 29 the Nuggets and Hornets will play on TNT at 8:30 PM Mountain unless Atlanta and Cleveland both sweep their series against the Heat and Pistons respectively.  Should neither one of those series have a game five, then game five of the Nuggets/Hornets series will be the lone game of the evening and start time will be 7:00 PM Mountain on TNT.  

Regarding the start time for game four the way the Jazz are playing a sweep by the Lakers is a decent possibility and no Lakers puts the Nuggets on TNT at 7:30 PM Mountain.  However, I think Utah should be able to win one game at home and that would mean the Nuggets and Hornets would be relegated to NBATV (Altitude would still carry the game locally) with a 6:30 PM Mountain start.  As far as game five I do not know about the Pistons, but I suspect Dwyane Wade will find a way to win at least one game against the Hawks and thus game five for the Nuggets will be at 8:30 PM on TNT.

Birdman Ninth in Defensive Player of the Year Voting

Chris Andersen finished ninth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. Dwight Howard won the award, but Birdman finished ahead of defensive stalwarts Rajon Rondo, Tim Duncan and Marcus Camby (who received one third place vote).

Andersen was received two second place votes and four third place votes for a total of ten points. Howard eeked out 542 points.

Linas Kleiza finished 314th just ahead of Eddy Curry.

George Karl Fifth in Coach of the Year Voting

George Karl finished fifth in the Coach of the Year voting behind Nate McMillan, Stan Van Gundy, Rick Adelman and winner Mike Brown.

Karl recieved 11 first place votes from the 124 voters and ended up with a total of 117 points 238 behind Brown.

I cannot really argue with the results of the voting.  Cleveland clearly took a large step forward and all the coaches in the top five did a very good job.

More Podcast Fun

I was fortunate to have been a guest on another podcast this morning with Alejandro de los Rios of The Gambit (a New Orleans magazine similar to 5280) and this time I was opposite Bradley Handwerger from WWLTV.com.  We look back at game one and discuss Chauncey’s big night and whether or not the Hornets can make this a series.  

Click here to download the file directly.

2009 NBA Playoffs Round 1 Game 1: Denver Nuggets 113 – New Orleans Hornets 84

Box Score | Highlights

It is only one game and I am trying not to get too carried away so I am going to try to remain composed and will simply say I enjoyed that thoroughly. 

There were three aspects of the Nuggets performance that simply blew me away.  The first was the clutch shooting of Chauncey Billups.  Normally the clutch arrives at the end of games.  Tonight Chauncey showed us what it means to be clutch early in a game.

The Nuggets know how important this series is for the franchise and to start the game they played like they felt the pressure.  At the end of the first quarter Nuggets not named Chauncey Billups had shot 2-12 and committed six turnovers.  Billups was 5-6 with no turnovers.  While the rest of the team was fretting about what might happen if they lost this game Chauncey with the calm and confidence of a player who has actually made it out of the first round.   

Without Chauncey stepping up and keeping Denver in the game early on there is no telling how tight the Nuggets’ sphincters would have become.  Chauncey’s incredible play allowed Denver the opportunity to relax and just play basketball.  By the time the third quarter came around the Nuggets had settled in and were just playing basketball.  They buried the Hornets with a 21-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters and the game was over. 

There were times this season where I have wished to see more on court leadership from Chauncey.  After watching him tonight I feel foolish for questioning that aspect of his personality.  He clearly came alive tonight and even though there will be nights where his shot is not falling he will still bring his leadership night in and night out.  (For a little bit more insight on Chauncey’s performance click here and go to item three.)

The second aspect of the Nuggets’ win, which was and will be equally important to what Chauncey brings to the table, was the Nuggets’ great defense.  In order for the Hornets to win this series Chris Paul is going to have to be otherworldly.  Tonight he was simply himself and that was not good enough.  The Nuggets were able to force four turnovers and held him to 36.8% shooting.  More importantly Denver was able to keep him from owning the paint. 

We mentioned the Nuggets 21-0 run in the second half.  In order to complete a 21-0 run you have to hold the opponents to zero points while you score 21. 

The run began with New Orleans going to West in the post on back to back possessions which both resulted in turnovers.  The next possession Chris Paul, being pressured by Chris Andersen and Chauncey Billups, lost the ball.  After that West was able to get in the paint, but missed a layup (although he did not get credit for a block on the play, I think Birdman got enough of a fingertip on it to reroute the ball).  To end the quarter J.R. Smith made a great hustle play to tip the ball away from Devin Brown and off his leg forcing yet another turnover.

We have talked about how the Nuggets can play great defense when they are focused.  Tonight was a great defensive effort from everyone.  Carmelo had a couple of moments that had me going nuts (both switches for no reason), but from start to finish I believe this was his best defensive game of his NBA career.

The third aspect of this game I thought was important was how the Nuggets not only matched the intensity and desire of Chris Paul, they surpassed it.  Denver was certainly the hungrier team and they showed it.  Whenever two teams play each other for a week or two they develop some bad blood and you get some shoving matches, harsh words and intense glares.  Tonight’s game felt like game four from that standpoint.  It was very physical and while a player like Tyson Chandler was pushing and bumping into people just for the sake of appearing physical, the Nuggets played the game with physicality.  What I mean by that is defensively and on the boards they made sure they accomplished what they wanted whether holding their ground or clearing space.  They were not bumping into other players away from the ball just to be physical, they were playing basketball physically.

The other big story was Melo’s performance. The glass half full version is Denver had a great offensive game without Melo having a big night.  (In fact, he was on the bench for the entirety of the 21-0 run and did not play at all over the final 15:11.)  He still contributed on defense and he has nowhere to go but up.  The glass half empty version is he has a history of shooting a low percentage in the playoffs and his 4-12 performance in game one will only serve to exacerbate things.  I still think Melo will have a big series.  New Orleans is paying a lot of attention to him, doubling and showing help as soon as he touches the ball, but I still think he will do a better job of attacking the rim and his jumper will start falling.

Denver may have made it by the Hornets without Melo tonight, but they will need him to produce on offense if they are going to win this series.

The Nuggets have won the first game for the third time in their six recent playoff appearances.  I think this time they actually win the series.

Additional Round 1 Game 1 Nuggets

  • The Nuggets won in a blowout and the Blazers lost in a blowout.  I guess game 82 was meaningless indeed.
  • No New Orleans starter made a shot from the field over the final 17 minutes of the game (of course, Byron Scott capitulated and pulled his starters with almost nine minutes left in the game).  Peja made a three with 5:05 left in the third quarter.  Over the next 13:40 New Orleans only made two shots from the field.  The Nuggets outscored the Hornets 35-12 during that time frame. 
  • Chauncey absolutely abused poor Rasual Butler who had no chance with the way Billups was shooting the ball.  If Butler was not standing three feet beyond the three point line Chauncey would hit a three.  If he stepped out on Chauncey, Billups simply blew by him into the lane. 
  • Both coaches typically have their point guard play the full first quarter and then rest for the first six minutes of the second quarter.  Tonight Karl left Billups on the floor to start the second quarter expecting to see Paul out there as well.  When he realized Paul was taking his regular rest he quickly subbed for Chauncey. 
  • If you want proof that Melo is buying into the defensive mindset of the postseason I give you the play where he drew an offensive foul on Peja as he was attempting to shed Melo cutting through the lane and responded by letting lose a primal scream.
  • You saw it a couple of times tonight, but on the rare occasion that West is able to get in a position to score on the block instead of giving him the shot Kenyon will foul him.
  • I wish I was at the game, but if I were I would not be able to bring you this next tidbit.  Altitude had both Maya Starks and Julie Browman reporting from the game and that allowed them to interview an assistant coach from both teams.  I do not want to get the New Orleans assistant who Maya interviewed in trouble, but I think he enjoyed talking to her.  He left with a big smile on his face.  Maybe he slipped her his room key.
  • The crowd seemed to be great.  There were several cheers that broke out simultaneously ranging from “Let’s go Nuggets” to “M-V-P, M-V-P” while Chauncey was shooting free throws in the third quarter.  Regular season crowds may never do that kind of thing, but it is good to see we can still field a good group for the postseason.
  • I just realized J.R. Smith was 0-7 on threes.  I had no idea he took that many.   The Nuggets still managed to shoot 11-21 from downtown.  If there is something to be concerned about offensively it is that the Nuggets only scored 34 points in the paint.  They were too jumper happy and that has to change.
  • Denver was great on the glass only giving up 10 offensive rebounds, good for a stellar 78.7% defensive rebound percentage, and out-rebounding the Hornets by 14.  Nene led the way with 14.
  • Tyson Chandler did not have much of an impact on the game and he was favoring his bad ankle before exiting the game.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  92.2 – A little slow for a Nuggets home game, but still quicker than what New Orleans likes.

Defensive Efficiency:  91.1 – Incredible performance.  The Hornets shot merely 35.1% on two point shots.

Offensive Efficiency:  122.6 – A great rating for the postseason where things are supposed to slow down and points are supposed to be difficult to come by.

Featured Blogs:  Hornets 24/7 | At the Hive

2009 NBA Playoffs Round 1 Game 1: Denver Nuggets vs New Orleans Hornets Game Thread

Can you feel it?  The Denver Nuggets are on the precipice.  They are favored to make it to the second round.  After two decades of futility during which you could argue the Nuggets were one of the worst three or four franchises in the entire NBA they are finally a division champion with a high seed.  More importantly they are expected to make it out of the first round of the playoffs.

The next few weeks will either become the experiences that most Nugget fans point to when asked what their favorite Nuggets memory is or we will witness another chapter written in the story of a franchise that simply cannot earn success.  Division championships, All-Star appearances, all-time victory totals, they all pale in comparison to the next step. 

The next few games are what we will remember.  This is why we attach ourselves to a silly sports team.  This is why we watch and obsess and fret.

It begins tonight and when and how it ends is all that matters.

This is what we have been waiting for year after frustrating year.  It’s time.

Game Day Link Dump (With some analysis thrown in for fun)

There are a few things to cover before I get to perhaps the first link dump I have ever done. 

A lot of people seem to think Denver will win this series in six games because that is what you say when you think it will be a competitive series, but will not go seven games.  I do not believe Denver will win in six games because I do not see Chris Paul losing game six at home.

Some people are dismissing the Hornets because they believe a single player cannot carry a team to the championship.  That is true, but one great player can carry a team past the first round. 

Also, one area I did not get to delve into in my series of pre series posts was how the Hornets will defend Carmelo Anthony.  Melo will be covered by Peja Stojakovic, James Posey and Rasual Butler.  Peja will play Melo based on how he is hurting him.  He will begin by laying off of Anthony in an attempt to entice him to settle for the jumper.  If and when Melo hits a couple of jumpers then Peja will crowd him.  Look for Carmelo to drive and go to the post.  When Melo posts up the Hornets will double him.  During the season they came with the second defender on the catch, but it is certainly possible they will try to mix it up and bring help when he puts the ball on the floor. 

Melo will need to keep from settling for the jumper and when he is doubled his teammates must move without the ball and give him options.

The Nuggets seem to have a big advantage although with the long layoffs between games the Hornets will ride their starters as long as possible.  Even so the Nuggets must dominate whoever Byron Scott decides to rely on amongst Posey, Hilton Armstrong, Shawn Marks, Antonio Daniels, Julian Wright and Morris Peterson.

In case you missed it in my podcast or chat with Hornets 24/7 my prediction is Nuggets in seven.

On to the link dump.

News Items

ESPN Series Page

Hornets 24/7 – Saturday News Wrap | Sunday News Wrap

Dave McMenamin of NBA.com – The pressure is on the Nuggets to win.

Various Insightful Previews

Denver Stiffs

Pickaxe and Roll

Nugg Doctor

New Nuggets blog Nuggets Nuggetz – The Balkman vs Bowen matchup

At the Hive – Amazing graphs!

Predictions

TrueHoop Stat Geek Smackdown

TrueHoop Blogger Smackdown hosted by Hardwood Paroxysm

ESPN Stats and Research Dept

Tom Ziller at AOL Fanhouse

Chris Tomasson – Melo says Nuggets in seven.

Video Scouting Report – Defending Chris Paul and the Pick and Roll

There is no doubt that the Denver Nuggets are going to have to defend the pick and roll at least competently in order to have a chance in this series.  The Denver bigs are all capable of playing good to great pick and roll defense.  Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen all move their feet well for their size and should be very useful in slowing Chris Paul down. 

The Nuggets seemed to get better and better at defending Chris Paul as the season wore on.  In the final meeting between the two teams Denver forced Paul into six turnovers thanks to an aggressive trapping scheme.  However, it is important to note that the Hornets were playing without Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler.  Trapping Paul will not be as easy with Chandler diving down the lane and Peja spotted up on the weak side. 

Denver will need to employ more than one scheme as Paul will be able to solve anything they throw at him eventually.  Look for the Nuggets to trap, to surround Paul with a soft umbrella of help designed to keep him out of the lane and even to switch.  In an interview on Friday with 1510 AM George Karl said the coaching staff had considered starting Melo or Kenyon on Paul.  By starting with a mismatch they can then switch and then have everyone matched up correctly.  Of course, in that situation my response would be to skip the pick and roll and exploit the mismatch.  I imagine someone like Chris Paul would figure that out as well.  However, in watching film from the previous matchups whenever the Nuggets switched Paul would almost exclusively pass off to the screener.  I wonder if he will be so passive in the playoffs.

Once again I have put together some clips of the Nuggets pick and roll defense looking at both successes and failures.  It should come as no surprise that the Hornets were able to take advantage of the slightest breakdown or belated rotation by earning a quality shot.  As I point out in the video instead of Julian Wright taking open jumpers, in the playoffs it will be Peja.

Chris Paul showed last season that he is capable of raising his game to incredible levels in the playoffs and Denver will have to deal with a determined, supremely talented and aggressive player. The one thing that really frightens me is Paul’s ability to draw fouls. Look for him to drive into the body of the Nuggets’ bigs in an attempt to draw fouls. If he can get two out of the threesome of Nene, Kenyon and Birdman into foul trouble it will be a big advantage for New Orleans.

Paul is going to play like a man possessed and Denver better be ready to match his desire and intensity.

Video Scouting Report – Kenyon Martin Defending David West

One of the key matchups in the upcoming series between the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Hornets will be the battle between big men David West and Kenyon Martin.  The good news for Nuggets fans is that we do not have to hope and pray that Kenyon can outscore West, because the chances of that are similar to the chances that the Celtics, Spurs and Blazers all lose at home on the first day of the 2009 NBA playoffs.  Well, maybe that is not the best analogy, but you get the idea.

Kenyon is a superb defender, especially when he puts his mind to it and I think he will have a much greater chance for success than the previous postseason when George Karl chose to have him cover the NBA MVP Kobe Bryant. 

He can move laterally as well as any power forward in the NBA yet can still hold his own in the post.  Kenyon is far from an infallible defensive player, but a player like David West is right in his wheel house.  The players Kenyon struggles with are ones who are either heavier or taller than him.  Size wise both players are listed at 6’ 9” and 240 pounds and Kenyon is certainly capable of dealing with anything West can bring to the table.

Even so West will get his points.  Despite not being blessed with explosive athleticism West is still a very good scorer.  He is not a player you think of as taking you down to the block and abuse you, but if you do not respect his touch around the rim he can embarrass you.  West is also a capable driver and will utilize spin moves and pump fakes to get a clear shot at the rim.  However, his most effective weapon is his jumper.  West can kill you without ever setting foot in the lane and that makes him a difficult cover.

Once again I have put together some video to see how these two matchup and I think the video shows what an even matchup it will be.

You will notice that all of those clips were of Kenyon covering West.  It is vital that Kenyon keeps West from posting big scoring nights it is also important that this does not become a matchup that is only worth watching at one end of the floor.  Kenyon is a capable scorer as well and he has the talent to put some points up on West himself.  It seems to me that since his back and rib troubles Kenyon has not been going to the rim nether as frequently nor as effectively as he did earlier in the season.  We have not seen much of his spin move and push shot from the lane and I think it is important that Kenyon make West work at both ends of the court. 

The Hornets supporting cast is not good enough to afford a down series from West.  Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler look to be less than 100% and if West is held in check it will be virtually impossible for the Hornets to win.  Over the previous two seasons against the Nuggets West has played in six games and only made 44 of 106 field goal attempts.  That is only 42.3% and it is more than 5% lower than he shot over those two seasons.

If West only hits 42% of his shots over the next couple of weeks I think the Nuggets are a shoe in for the conference semifinals.

Video Scouting Report – Tyson Chandler

Two big questions we all face heading into the Nuggets/Hornets series is how healthy is Tyson Chandler and what kind of impact will he have?  Chandler himself claims to only be about 70% healthy so what that means we will have to wait and see.  Chandler did not play in any of the four contests between the two teams this season, but we can look back to previous matchups to see what his presence means for the Hornets.

I have compiled some clips from game 44 of last season.  Chandler had ten points on four for five shooting and 16 rebounds as the Hornets defeated the Carmelo-less Nuggets 117-93 in New Orleans.  However, Chandler only had one block and played somewhat passively on the defensive end.

I do my typically sterling job narrating the eight clips, but watch for the timing he and Paul have on the pick and roll.  The duo combines to execute on plays where Chandler cuts to the rim immediately, when he makes a delayed cut and even in transition.  You have to wonder with Chandler missing so much time if they will still possess that sense of timing and chemistry. 

Defensively I thought it was interesting how Chandler was content to watch the action.  He moves well and generally is in the right position, but his lack of big shot blocking numbers can be attributed to the fact he is content to let his opponent score largely unchallenged.  We see the opposite end of that spectrum in Birdman who launches himself at shots that he has no business attacking, but we have also seen Birdman have a larger impact through forcing altered shots than Chandler does in the clips to follow.

Again these clips are from last season when Chandler was healthy.  Who knows how much of this performance he can duplicate.  According to Ryan and Niall at Hornets 24/7 Chandler had four throw downs of the pick and roll in the last game against the Spurs.  However, if he is feeling any discomfort I would expect him to play ever more passively on defense and hopefully Nene can take advantage of that.

Nuggets/Hornets Podcast

I took part in a podcast with Niall Doherty from Hornets 24/7 (I think I will be communicating more with Niall and Ryan than my family over the next week or two) and Alejandro de los Rios from various publications and we analyzed the matchups between the coaches and starting five.  The podcast is posted over at Blog of New Orleans or you can click here to donwload the MP3 file.

One Tiebreaker Denver Lost

With the Spurs, Blazers and Nuggets all tied at 54-28 the NBA had to break the tie between the three teams for their draft position. In one sense it really did not matter to the Nuggets how it played out as their pick is going to Oklahoma City anyway (who will apparently pass it on to Chicago). On the other hand I think we all want Portland picking as late in the draft as possible.

The tie was broken by random drawing and the Blazers came out with the pick 24, the Spurs have selection 25 and Denver Oklahoma City Chicago fell to number 26.

Here are the results of the tiebreaker drawings:

§ Washington (19-63) won a tiebreaker with the Los Angeles Clippers
§ Minnesota (24-58) won a tiebreaker with Memphis
§ Milwaukee (34-48) won a tiebreaker with New Jersey
§ Chicago (41-41) won a tiebreaker with Philadelphia
§ Portland (54-28) won a tiebreaker with Denver and San Antonio; San
Antonio then won a tiebreaker with Denver

And the draft order:

Sacramento 17-65 250 (lottery chances out of 1,000)
Washington 19-63 178
LA Clippers 19-63 177
Oklahoma City 23-59 119
Minnesota 24-58 76
Memphis 24-58 75
Golden State 29-53 43
New York 32-50 28
Toronto 33-49 17
Milwaukee 34-48 10
New Jersey 34-48 9
Charlotte 35-47 7
Indiana 36-46 6
Phoenix 46-36 5

The order for the remainder of the first round picks is as follows:

15. Detroit 39-43
16. Chicago 41-41
17. Philadelphia 41-41
18. Miami (To Minnesota) 43-39
19. Atlanta 47-35
20. Utah 48-34
21. New Orleans 49-33
22. Dallas 50-32
23. Houston (To Sacramento) 53-29
24. Portland 54-28
25. San Antonio (To Oklahoma City) 54-28
26. Denver (To Chicago via Oklahoma City) 54-28
27. Orlando (To Memphis) 59-23
28. Boston (To Minnesota) 62-20
29. LA Lakers 65-17
30. Cleveland 66-16

2009 SECOND ROUND DRAFT CHOICE ORDER

31. Sacramento
32/33. LA Clippers (To Portland)
32/33. Washington
34. Oklahoma City (To Denver)
35/36. Memphis
35/36. Minnesota (To Detroit)
37. Golden State (To San Antonio via Phoenix)
38. New York (To Portland via Chicago)
39. Toronto (To Detroit)
40/41. New Jersey (To Charlotte via Oklahoma City)
40/41. Milwaukee
42. Charlotte (To LA Lakers)
43. Indiana (To Miami)
44. Detroit
45. Philadelphia (To Minnesota via Miami)
46. Chicago (To Cleveland)
47. Miami (To Minnesota)
48. Phoenix
49. Atlanta
50. Utah
51. New Orleans (To San Antonio via Toronto)
52. Dallas (To Indiana)
53. Houston (To San Antonio)
54. San Antonio (To Charlotte)
55. Denver (To Portland)
56. Portland
57. Orlando (To Phoenix via Oklahoma City)
58. Boston
59. LA Lakers
60. Cleveland (To Miami)

Nuggets/Hornets Chat

It is time to chat with Niall Doherty and Ryan Schwan from Hornets 24/7.  Send in your questions and get ready for a ton of Nuggets/Hornets analysis.

Nuggets vs Hornets – Initial Thoughts

First off make sure you carve out some time to take part in a live chat here at RMC featuring Niall Doherty and Ryan Schwan from the exceptional blog Hornets 24/7 tonight (Thursday) at 7:00 PM Mountain.  You can ask questions or just read along.  You choose your own level of involvement just like Project Mayhem in Fight Club.

I am not sure any of us should be excited about the fact the Nuggets drew the New Orleans Hornets in the first round.  While it is true the Hornets have been struggling down the stretch run they are a very dangerous team.  The only major difference between this season and last was health.  During the 2007-08 season during which the Hornets won 56 games to earn the second seed in the west, Peja Stojakovic played 77 games and Tyson Chandler played in 79.  This season Peja appeared in only 61 games largely due to a balky back and Chandler was on the floor for only 45 contests thanks to a bum ankle. 

Tyson Chandler is back having played in the season finale last night in San Antonio and in his 45 appearances this season the Hornets are 30-15 on the season, a 55 win pace, compared to 19-14 without him.  We all know how deadly Chris Paul can be running the pick and roll and he is only that much better with Chandler flying down the lane towards the rim.  Defensively Chandler has never blocked more than 1.8 shots a game in his career, but he is a great rebounder and also adds a presence in the lane that the Hornets lack otherwise.

Peja’s health issues has had a major impact on the Hornets’ three point shooting.  Last season New Orleans was in a statistical dead heat for the league lead in three point shooting percentage by hitting 38.9% from behind the arc.  This season they are a very mediocre 36.4%.  If you look at their individual shooting percentages they are all very similar to last season except for one.  Peja dropped from 44.1% last season to a still respectable, but un-Peja like 37.8% this season.  He has seemingly recovered, but he has only made one of his previous ten three point attempts so either his back is still bothering him or he is ready to bust out.  Only time will tell.

Turning to the Nuggets Melo has struggled with various schemes and individual defenders in the playoffs over the years.  I think finally he has a good matchup.  He will be covered primarily by Peja and James Posey.  We all know Peja has no chance covering Melo, but I do not think Posey can hang with him either.  Posey has a rep of being a very good defender, but he does not have the quickness or strength to cover Melo one on one.  They way Melo has been attacking the rim and posting up more frequently over the previous couple of weeks I think he has a big series.

Also the Nuggets have shown good progress over the course of the season in defending the pick and roll.  Paul will always get his assists, but over the last two meetings, both in New Orleans, the Nuggets forced him into committing five turnovers in one game and six in the other.  If the Nuggets can continue that success they will be in great shape.

Finally, I believe the Nuggets have one major intangible on their side and that is the red hot desire to finally win a first round playoff series.  We have seen changes, some big (Chauncey Billups), some small (a slight uptick in Melo’s defense, George Karl standing during many games) in this team since last season and they have all been spurred by the desire to make a move in the playoffs.  This is the year for that to happen and the players know it.  I think we will see a focus and drive that we have not seen from them before.

Do not get me wrong, Chris Paul is a competitor and his will to win may be stronger than any individual Nugget player and David West is a fighter as well, but collectively I do not see the Hornets matching the Nuggets’ desire and that is a huge key to this matchup.  We have seen how powerful the Nuggets can be when they play with focus and I think we are going to see a very focused group.

We have two more days until game day so look for plenty more coverage to come from the chat tonight to some video, a podcast appearance or two and the answers to questions not everyone will be asking such as can James Posey replace the great play the Hornets received last post season from Jannero Pargo? 

Update:  Hornets 24/7 has an incredible rundown of news covering both the Nuggets and Hornets and Andrew at Denver Stiffs lays out a blueprint for what the Nuggets must do differently this year to succeed in the playoffs.

Denver Nuggets First Round Playoff Schedule

According to the NBA the Denver Nuggets will open the 2009 NBA Playoffs at home on Sunday April 19 at 8:30 Mountain time.  It will before the first time Denver has enjoyed home court advantage since 1988 and I think the Pepsi Center will be rocking.

Game two will be Wednesday, April 22 in Denver at 8:30 PM Mountain time.  Both of the first two games will be broadcast by TNT.

The third game is slated for 11:00 AM Mountain time in New Orleans on Saturday, April 25 and will air on ESPN.

The NBA has yet to schedule any of the other games.  

The very first game of the playoffs will be Saturday morning at 10:30 AM Mountain time between the defending champion Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls. 

You can look forward to a buttload of playoff coverage here at RMC and it will kick off with a live chat with Niall and Ryan at Hornets 24/7 tomorrow night at 7:00 PM Mountain.

Update:  We do know the dates for the other games, just not the start times.  Game four will be on Monday, April 27 and the if necessary games are Wednesday, April 29 in Denver, Friday, May 1 at New Orleans and should there be a game seven, it will be on Sunday, May 3 in Denver.

Complete first round schedule:

                                                                         Local      EDT  Broadcast
Western Conference

L.A. Lakers vs. Utah

Game 1 – Sun  April 19  Utah at L.A. Lakers      12:00PM  3:00PM ABC/R
Game 2 – Tue  April 21  Utah at L.A. Lakers      7:30PM   10:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Thu  April 23  L.A. Lakers at Utah      8:30PM   10:30PM TNT
Game 4 – Sat  April 25  L.A. Lakers at Utah      7:00PM   9:00PM ESPN/R
Game 5 * Mon  April 27  Utah at L.A. Lakers      TBD      TBD    TBD
Game 6 * Thu  April 30  L.A. Lakers at Utah      TBD      TBD    TBD
Game 7 * Sat  May 2     Utah at L.A. Lakers      TBD      TBD    TNT

Denver vs. New Orleans

Game 1 – Sun  April 19  New Orleans at Denver    8:30PM   10:30PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed  April 22  New Orleans at Denver    8:30PM   10:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Sat  April 25  Denver at New Orleans    12:00PM  1:00PM ESPN
Game 4 – Mon  April 27  Denver at New Orleans    TBD      TBD    TBD
Game 5 * Wed  April 29  New Orleans at Denver    TBD      TBD    TBD
Game 6 * Fri  May 1     Denver at New Orleans    TBD      TBD    TBD
Game 7 * Sun  May 3     New Orleans at Denver    TBD      TBD    TBD

San Antonio vs. Dallas

Game 1 – Sat  April 18  Dallas at San Antonio    7:00PM   8:00PM ESPN/R
Game 2 – Mon  April 20  Dallas at San Antonio    8:30PM   9:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Thu  April 23  San Antonio at Dallas    7:30PM   8:30PM NBATV
Game 4 – Sat  April 25  San Antonio at Dallas    3:00PM   4:00PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue  April 28  Dallas at San Antonio    TBD      TBD    TBD
Game 6 * Fri  May 1     San Antonio at Dallas    TBD      TBD    TBD
Game 7 * Sun  May 3     Dallas at San Antonio    TBD      TBD    TBD

Portland vs. Houston

Game 1 – Sat  April 18  Houston at Portland      7:30PM   10:30PM ESPN
Game 2 – Tue  April 21  Houston at Portland      7:00PM   10:00PM NBATV
Game 3 – Fri  April 24  Portland at Houston      8:30PM   9:30PM ESPN
Game 4 – Sun  April 26  Portland at Houston      8:00PM   9:00PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue  April 28  Houston at Portland      TBD      TBD    TBD
Game 6 * Thu  April 30  Portland at Houston      TBD      TBD    TBD
Game 7 * Sat  May 2     Houston at Portland      TBD      TBD    TNT                                                               
Eastern Conference

Cleveland vs. Detroit

Game 1 – Sat  April 18  Detroit at Cleveland     3:00PM  3:00PM   ABC
Game 2 – Tue  April 21  Detroit at Cleveland     8:00PM  8:00PM   TNT
Game 3 – Fri  April 24  Cleveland at Detroit     7:00PM  7:00PM   ESPN
Game 4 – Sun  April 26  Cleveland at Detroit     3:30PM  3:30PM   ABC/R
Game 5 * Wed  April 29  Detroit at Cleveland     TBD     TBD      TBD
Game 6 * Fri  May 1     Cleveland at Detroit     TBD     TBD      TBD
Game 7 * Sun  May 3     Detroit at Cleveland     TBD     TBD      TBD

Boston vs. Chicago

Game 1 – Sat  April 18  Chicago at Boston        12:30PM 12:30PM  ESPN
Game 2 – Mon  April 20  Chicago at Boston        7:00PM  7:00PM   TNT
Game 3 – Thu  April 23  Boston at Chicago        7:00PM  8:00PM   TNT
Game 4 – Sun  April 26  Boston at Chicago        12:00PM 1:00PM   ABC
Game 5 * Tue  April 28  Chicago at Boston        TBD     TBD      TBD
Game 6 * Thu  April 30  Boston at Chicago        TBD     TBD      TBD
Game 7 * Sat  May 2     Chicago at Boston        TBD     TBD      TNT

Orlando vs. Philadelphia

Game 1 – Sun  April 19  Philadelphia at Orlando  5:30PM  5:30PM   TNT
Game 2 – Wed  April 22  Philadelphia at Orlando  7:00PM  7:00PM   NBATV
Game 3 – Fri  April 24  Orlando at Philadelphia  8:00PM  8:00PM   ESPN2
Game 4 – Sun  April 26  Orlando at Philadelphia  6:30PM  6:30PM   TNT
Game 5 * Tue  April 28  Philadelphia at Orlando  TBD     TBD      TBD
Game 6 * Thu  April 30  Orlando at Philadelphia  TBD     TBD      TBD
Game 7 * Sat  May 2     Philadelphia at Orlando  TBD     TBD      TNT

Atlanta vs. Miami

Game 1 – Sun  April 19  Miami at Atlanta         8:00PM  8:00PM   TNT
Game 2 – Wed  April 22  Miami at Atlanta         8:00PM  8:00PM   TNT
Game 3 – Sat  April 25  Atlanta at Miami         6:30PM  6:30PM   TNT
Game 4 – Mon  April 27  Atlanta at Miami         TBD     TBD      TBD
Game 5 * Wed  April 29  Miami at Atlanta         TBD     TBD      TBD
Game 6 * Fri  May 1     Atlanta at Miami         TBD     TBD      TBD
Game 7 * Sun  May 3     Miami at Atlanta         TBD     TBD      TBD

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