The Keys To The Nuggets' Win Over The Hornets In Game 1

Sean StancillSenior Writer IApril 20, 2009

DENVER - MARCH 05:  Chauncey Billups #7 of the Denver Nuggets takes a shot against the Portland Trail Blazers during NBA action at the Pepsi Center on March 5, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Trail Blazers 106-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

For the fifth time in their franchise history, the Nuggets waltzed into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, riding a season-long hot streak fueled by the trade which brought Chauncey Billups back home and sent Allen Iverson to the Motor City in the opening week of the regular season.

It's safe to say Billups earned his keep. He scored 36 points in only three quarters as Denver delivered a 29-point drubbing of the Hornets, 113-84, at the Pepsi Center, despite the usual All-NBA performance from Chris Paul and lackluster shooting from star forward Carmelo Anthony.
Here were the keys in the Nuggets' 113-84 win over the New Orleans Hornets:
Chauncey Billups And The Long Ball
The Nuggets survived an off-night from Carmelo Anthony (four of 12 shooting) thanks in large part to the herculean efforts of Chauncey Billups. 
Billups had 18 points in the third quarter, including his eighth three-pointer of the game (a franchise playoff record), and had 36 points by the end of the third quarter on 10 of 15 shooting from the field, eight of nine from long-range, and eight for eight from the foul-line. 
The hometown native concluded his night with a well-deserved standing ovation as he walked his way towards the Nuggets' bench to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

The Nuggets' From The Great Beyond

In their victory over the Hornets', Denver connected on 11 three pointers, setting a new franchise playoff record for most three pointers made in a single playoff game.

Nene's Playoff Debut As A Starter

In his first three seasons with the Nuggets, Nene missed a total of 81 games and of course a significant portion of last season battling testicular cancer.
Though he logged particles of minutes against the Lakers last April, it was clear he was not at full-strength or in proper game-shape.
Nene feasted on the Hornets injury-wrecked front court and posted 12 points and 14 rebounds in his first career playoff start for Denver, also recording the first postseason double-double of his young career.
He, as well as the rest of Denver's squad, helped force Hornets starting center Tyson Chandler into foul trouble as he finished with only six points, five rebounds, and five fouls.
Though Nene was poked in the eye during the game as Devin Brown of the Hornets' attempted to pry away a rebound, he returned, played the remainder of his time, and looked fine out on the floor. 

The Effectiveness of the Nuggets Bench

Chris "Birdman" Andersen continued to provide the Nuggets' with great defensive help, all-important energy, and hustle off the bench, compiling six points, four rebounds, three blocks, and a steal midway through the third quarter.
The tandem of Andersen and Nene proved to be a real problem for Tyson Chandler, both low in the post and in the open court. Andersen finished with nine points, six boards, and five blocks off the bench.
Second unit star J.R. Smith was unable to find consistency on the offensive end, and endured a number of low points. He air-balled a turnaround, uncontested three-point jumper early in the first half, grew visibly frustrated by the peskiness of Chris Paul, and threw an unwarranted elbow.
However, Smith did chip in with three points and a steal during the 11-0 run that salted the game away for Denver in the latter stages of the third quarter.
Smith managed to shake-off his poor shooting performance and opened the fourth quarter by scoring six straight points for the Nuggets', as part of a colossal 21-0 Denver run which began as the third quarter wound down and progressed its way into the fourth.
Smith concluded his evening with 19 points despite failing to make a single three-pointer (0-7). 
It is ironic that, on the night when the Nuggets set a new franchise playoff record for the most three-point field goals made in a single playoff game, J.R. Smith didn't make a single trey, and failed to join a club which included Dahntay Jones, Linas Kleiza, and Chauncey Billups.
Swingman Linas Kleiza also scored 13 points and made half of his four shots from long-range to propel the Denver run.
The series resumes on Wednesday with play once again at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado and the Nuggets up 1-0.