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Game 4: Nuggets 121 - Hornets 63

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Nuggets splatter Hornets for 3-1 series lead

 

Just fooling around in emails before Game 4 with my buddies and predicting scores for the game I tossed out: Nuggets 132 - Hornets 61. I didn't want to see a close game and I wanted to see the Nuggets leave New Orleans with a convincing win.

Never in anyone's wildest dreams could they have foreseen Game 4 going the way it did. The Hornets had just about everything going in their favor: coming off a win, a chance to even up the series, and playing at home.

Denver on the other side also had reason to believe they could win Game 4 after being dead in the water the previous game, but clawing back and having two chances to steal Game 3 on their final two possessions.

It was a toss up at tipoff as who would win this game and déjà vu followed soon after. Denver surged to a 25-8 lead with 4:11 left in the first quarter and that's when things looked eerily similar to game three when the Nuggets were up 22-6 at the 4:13 mark of the first.

The classic, "here we go again" line crept in to everyone's minds that I was watching the game with and the Nuggets were at a crossroad. In game three Denver gave up a 15-4 run to the Hornets to close the quarter, but last night Denver finished the quarter on an 11-7 run up 36-15 after the opening period. This was not going to be another Game 3 performance from Denver.

The 2nd Quarter was relatively even on paper at 25-24 and the teams went into the half with Denver up 61-39. But the Nuggets would outscore the Hornets 60-24 in the second half and hold New Orleans to 11 points in the third quarter and 13 in the fourth with Chris Paul and the other Hornets' starters watching from the sidelines.

But what were the forces behind the biggest margin of victory for a road team in NBA playoff history? Let's break it down ...

  • Everything with the Hornets starts and stops with Chris Paul. After having his way in game three and scoring 32 points to lead the Bugs, you knew Denver would have to account for Paul last night. Dahntay Jones answered the challenge once again playing his series high 26 minutes and locking CP3 up all night. Paul flopped, whined, and got brick walled by a brutal and legal Kenyon Martin screen on his way to perhaps his worst performance as a pro. Paul turned in 4 points, 6 assists, and 2 rebounds while turning the ball over 6 times in 36 minutes. His night was over at the end of the third quarter.
  • David West led the Hornets (if you want to call it led) with 14 points. Denver once again turned West into a non-factor.
  • Sort of a bizarre sequence ... The Hornets didn't score a field goal for nearly 8 minutes in the 2nd Quarter. After a James Posey layup at the 7:50 mark the Bugs didn't score another field goal until the 00:02 mark when Rasual Butler hit a jumper right before the end of the first half. Though inside that time frame the Hornets got to the foul line 7 times and went 13-14 from the charity stripe.
  • Hornets confuse dirty play with toughness. On many occasions last night Denver was setting hard screens and Hornet players were flying into them and getting zapped like Bugs. The crowd didn't like it, but every replay showed the Nuggets' screener had his feet set and body straight up. If Chris Paul wanted to be upset with someone he should have been screaming at his own guys for not alerting him to the wall he was racing towards. 
  • Nene's quickness dominated Tyson Chandler. Nene only played 16 minutes, but went 5-5 from the floor for 13 points. On two occasions he blew past Chandler and Chandler's only reaction was to attack Nene's body by shoving the Big Brazilian and making no attempt at the ball. Heck, on one play Chandler fouled Nene twice before the refs blew the whistle. Nene made Chandler pay by nailing both layups. You can call Denver the "Thuggets" all you want, but Chandler just plowing into Nene in midair multiple times is inexcusable. Byron Scott should put him where he belongs ... on the bench. Chandler finished the night with 0 points and 4 fouls in 13 minutes and put a nice big smile on this blogger's face.
  • At the 7:00 mark of the 2nd Quarter Anthony Carter flew down the court and made a nice hustle play on Rasual Butler's dunk attempt, fouling Butler at the rim with an obvious hack. Butler landed on his feet under the hoop as Carter went tumbling into the photographers. Butler then decided to march over to where Carter was laying. As J.R. Smith went to help his teammate up Butler shoved Smith in what looked like an attempt to get at Carter ... had Smith not been there Butler may have done something he would have regretted. Rasual did receive a technical on the play for shoving Smith. Again the Hornets overreacted to a physical Denver team.
  • The Nuggets recorded a series high 29 assists last night. Ball movement was great and the Nuggets were happy to share the wealth. It's key for the Nuggets to record 20+ assists and they are 3-0 when doing so in this series. Three plays stick out ...
  1. The Nuggets first bucket of the night at the 10:57 mark ... Nene catches the ball in the post and as the double team comes he feeds KMart who drives the empty lane for the easy power dunk ... 2-2 tie game.
  2. At the 2:24 mark of the first quarter Melo slips a pass in to a cutting and wide open Nene for the jam. Anytime Nene can get a dunk is key for his confidence ... kudos to Melo there ... 29-11 Nuggets.
  3. At the 5:03 mark of the second quarter Anthony Carter raises up for a corner three, but instead of taking the shot he fires the ball underneath the hoop to a wide open Chris Andersen. Birdman thrashers the rim ... 53-29 Denver.
  • Defense. In the opening period I can only remember the Hornets getting two semi-open looks. The rest of the quarter Denver challenged everything with a hand in the face or forcing a turnover. The Hornets turned the ball over 26 times last night.
  • Dahntay Jones continues to impress me. In 26 minutes Jones scored 12 points on 5-9 shooting (1-2 from downtown and 1-2 from the free throw line), grabbed 5 rebounds, but more importantly as mentioned above ... suffocated Chris Paul.
  • The Nuggets two biggest stars played pretty well last night. Melo finished with 26 points on 9-17 shooting (including 2-3 from deep and 6-7 from the foul line), 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. It's a good sign when Melo takes under 20 shots and doubles his season assist average of 3.4 apg. An unselfish and happy Carmelo is a dangerous man. You don't want to see the Smiling Assassin.
    Chauncey Billups was Chauncey Billups last night. He finished with 17 points and 8 assists with only 1 turnover. Billups has only turned the ball over 3 times in the series with all three coming in New Orleans. Again, who won the Iverson trade National Media?????????

 

Denver will have a chance to wrap this series up appropriately in Denver on Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. MDT. Handing the Hornets a 58-point loss on their home floor should be the back-breaker that propels the Nuggets into the second round for the first time since 1994. Denver will be at home and the Pepsi Center crowd will be ready to open a new era of Nuggets basketball by closing the door on the New Orleans Hornets.

 

Box Score

Opposition's Take: At the Hive

 

ntimmons73@yahoo.com