Nuggets-Hornets: Keys for Denver in Game Two

Sean StancillSenior Writer IApril 20, 2009

DENVER - APRIL 19:  Chauncey Billups #7 of the Denver Nuggets drives against Rasual Butler #45 of the New Orleans Hornets in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on April 19, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. Billups had a game high 36 points as the Nuggets defeated the Hornets 113-84.  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)

The Nuggets throttled the Hornets 113-84 on Sunday Night, thanks to a 36-point uprising from Chauncey Billups, including eight three pointers.

It was a Nuggets franchise-playoff record, as Denver took the first game of their series with little effort from New Orleans.

These factors are inevitable: Carmelo Anthony will rebound and put up points, Chris Paul will continue to have All-NBA nights, and Chauncey Billups will continue to provide seniority for Denver and their starting line-up.
With that taken into account, here are the keys to watch for the Nuggets going into Game Two:

Maintaining Solid Defense on David West
Coming into Game One, West had averaged 18 points, eight rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in three games against the Nuggets during the regular season.
The Nuggets (primarily Kenyon Martin) did an excellent job containing David West. They limited him to only 12 points, forced him to miss 12 of his 16 shots, and only allowed him to get to the free-throw line four times—which is below his season average of 5.5 per game. They also held West without a field goal in the fourth quarter en route to their 113-84 bashing.
Martin's speed, length, and athleticism around the rim really disrupted West, and he contested almost every shot that West took from the perimeter.

The Nuggets' Will Look to Continue to Harass Chris Paul
In Chris Paul's five games against the Nuggets this season (including Game One), here are his turnover numbers: six, five, seven, three, five.
What you're seeing is that Chris Paul has turned the ball over more times against the Nuggets then any of the other 29 teams in the league. Paul averaged 5.3 turnovers per game versus Denver, followed closely by New Jersey and Philadelphia with 4.5.
George Karl assigned bigger and stronger guards, Chauncey Billups and Dahntay Jones, to defend Paul. The strategy paid off, as the duo were able to exert their body mass on Paul and wear him down as the game progressed. Billups also gambled, but executed a move in a sly manner, allowing Paul to drive past him before he patiently plucked the ball from his palms from behind.
On the offensive end, Billups dug into Paul on the post in a manner similar to how a boxer restricts the movement of his opponent by delivering an overhaul of shots to the body.
Dahntay Jones was the more aggressive of the two, and stole the ball away from Paul on the Hornets' second possession of the game. He set the tone for the team's defense as perhaps the NBA's best point guard for the rest of the game and for the rest of the series.

Denver Must Continue to Outscore New Orleans' Bench
It's no secret that the Hornets aren't exceptionally deep, even with the signing of James Posey in the offseason—who, by the way, only scored two points in 21 minutes of action.
On a positive note, all seven bench players for the Hornets scored.
On a negative note, they only totaled 24 points while shooting two of seven from downtown, and a miserable six of 11 from the foul line.
On the other hand, the Nuggets bench produced 41 points as three players and made 11 free throws. They also had a woeful night from deep, as they shot two of 11 from behind the arc.
The difference was 17 more points for the Nuggets. If you negate both bench productions, then the score would have been a lot closer than a 113-84 blowout for the home team.
Another advantage for Denver is that they are more talented, more athletic, and deeper than New Orleans' second unit. Plus, it's almost a guarantee that Nuggets guard J.R. Smith won't miss seven shots from long range for the remainder of the series.
The series resumes on Wednesday with Game Two at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.