Nuggets-Hornets: "Iron Man" Has 32 as "Enver" is "D-nied" in N.O. Victory

Bhavik DarjiCorrespondent IApril 25, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - APRIL 25:  Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets shoots over Nene #31 of the Denver Nuggets in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals at New Orleans Arena on April 25, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.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 Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Nope, there's no "D' in Denver in the headline.

That was intentional; it reflects just how poorly the Nuggets played on the defensive end in Game Three of their first-round matchup with the New Orleans Hornets.

The Denver squad buzzed into the Hive on a Saturday afternoon in New Orleans and quickly established a 14-point lead with two minutes to go in the first.

But Chris Paul went loose and could not be stopped, dropping 32 points and 12 assists while playing an Iron Man-like 45 minutes.

The Nuggets' lead in the series fell to 2-1, and team leader Chauncey Billups went just 3-for-10 in the game en route to a modest 16 points.


I cannot believe the Nuggets lost this game. I do not know how much more Coach Karl can express defense and shot selection to these guys.

Denver started with a 10-0 run before Paul hit a jumper. Then, former Nugget (and current ESPN NBA commentator) Jon Berry jinxed Billups, who actually missed a free throw.

Then James "Playoff" Posey went off and hit threes like a maniac; the Nuggets had been up 22-6, but the Hornets went on a century-long run to cut the lead to 26-21 after the first.

New Orleans started the second quarter where they left off by scoring twice before Linas Kleiza hit a trey. But the Nuggets continued to have defensive lapses and let the Hornets outscore them 29-21 in the quarter. Credit the Hornets for making the Nuggets take hard shots.


George Karl made a mistake today by leaving J.R. Smith in way too long down the stretch; the youngster was just putting up silly shots and tried to take it one-on-one.

The whole team was trying to shoot their way back into the game, and I guess you can say it worked; J.R. did hit a pivotal three to make the game 90-84, and Carmelo hit a three with nobody on him to bring the game to 94-89.

Then, Denver all of a sudden decided to play great defense, causing the Hornets to commit a shot clock violation. And with the Hornets up by just one (94-93), Carmelo made a great play by getting a steal and then taking a shot with four seconds left.

But after Posey split two free throws, Anthony's heave fell a little left, and that was game.


Keys for Denver in Game Four

The Nuggets were playing great in the first eight minutes today, passing the ball around and playing great defense on David West and Chris Paul. But after that, it all went downhill.

The Denver players need to rotate faster and supply weak-side help. And somebody tell these guys that while defending, look not at the ball, but at your man.

The Nugs need to keep Chris out the of paint, and as a team, they should not get so cocky as they did early on today. They stopped playing hard defense, and their energy soon left.

Also, Nene must get the ball in the post more often; he went for just two points on 1-of-4 shooting. Overall, he's averaging 10 points in this series but has encountered foul trouble.

And as good of a leader Billups is, he needs to get himself going. He is a good shooter but must be able to create shots for himself like he has in the past two games. He is seemingly a little bit too unselfish at times; he needs to step up and just find his rhythm.

Finally, Smith was just atrocious this afternoon; I cannot even look at his play in the tape. I do not know what is wrong with this guy. You're down six, but you take it yourself and try to pull a Kobe with three guys on you? Please.

George Karl should have taken him off with six minutes left and put Billups back in. At least then we would have proper possessions that didn't go to waste.


Keys for New Orleans in Game Four

New Orleans needs to get Posey going offensively, and passing the ball and getting open looks for Peja Stojakovic and Rasual Butler are also keys.

Their bench is going to have to come out strong in the next game, as they did in this game. Getting the crowd going is going to help them boost their confidence and get a head of steam going to the basket. Personally, I loved the silence when Denver was up 22-6, but the Hive can get loud.

Chris Paul is going to have to keep playing the same way he has been. He must take charge, drive the lane, and minimize turnovers.

Tyson Chandler is going to have to stay out of foul trouble. He is getting emotional and even had to a flagrant foul one on Dahntay Jones. Grabbing rebounds should be his focus; he only had three in this game.

David West needs to push Kenyon Martin around more if he wants his team to be successful. He is just playing horridly in this series, averaging a measly 16.5 PPG before this game. He also needs to stay out of foul trouble and make his free throws.


Key Stat

75 percent of teams who win Game Three go on to win the series. That does not sound good for us Nuggets fans.


The next game will be at New Orleans on Monday at 8:30 PM EST.

Today's other games are: