Nuggets Sting The Hornets Again in Game Two, Take Commanding 2-0 Lead

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IApril 23, 2009

DENVER - APRIL 22:  Chauncey Billups #7 of the Denver Nuggets takes a shot over Peja Stojakovic #16 of the New Orleans Hornets in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on April 22, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Hornets 108-93. 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)

Game two started out much like game one, with Chauncey Billups coming out en fuego (on fire friends). However, the Nuggets found themselves in a closer game at the outset, up only two points after the first quarter.

But Denver fought hard in the second quarter to go up by eight at halftime, the same amount they were leading in game one. Billups was Denver's high scorer, matching his halftime mark of game one at 18 points, and Carmelo Anthony had 10 at half.

Billups finished a few shy of his outstanding first game mark with 31 to lead Denver to another commanding victory, 108-93.

Game two though was not as clean a win as game one, as the Nuggets lost the rebound battle by seven (36-43), but still managed to have eight more assists, and 11 less turnovers than the beleaguered Hornets.

The game was distinct from game one in a way, it was a much more physical contest throughout.

Chris Paul and Dahntay Jones went at it, and so did Nene and Chandler. At one point, Nene got fed up with Chandler grabbing him under the hoop and the two had to be separated by two refs. Likewise, Chris Andersen went flying in for blocks, only to land on the ground numerous times.

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David West had a much better game Wednesday, leading New Orleans with 21 points and 10 rebounds, though Chris Paul was all but shut down, mainly by Dahntay Jones.

Jones played physically against Paul all game, getting into his head, and throwing him out of his comfort zone. CP3 ended the loss with only 14 points, yet still had a marvelous 13 assists.

Peja Stojakovic added 17 points, and Tyson Chandler 11 rebounds, but their combined effort was not close to enough against the deeper Nuggets.

Along with Billups, Carmelo Anthony stepped up his game, adding 22 points and a brilliant nine assists, J.R. Smith had a quiet 15 points, while Kenyon Martin slashed to the hoop for 13.

Billups has been the catalyst of this Nuggets playoff greatness, outscoring Chris Paul 67-35 and shooting 19-19 from the free throw line. In fact, Billups has not turned the ball over once in the first two games of this exciting series. It was the first time in his career that he did not turn the ball over once in two straight playoff games.

If Billups can continue to play this well, there is no reason the Nuggets can't reach the Western Conference Finals.

Nonetheless, game three in New Orleans will be a completely different animal. The Hornets were decent on the road, matching the Nuggets record of 21-20, but are a remarkable 28-13 at home.

Saturday's game starts at an awkward 1:00 PM ET, which is still mid-morning in Denver. The early start time may effect the Nuggets bodies, something they will have to fight through. They do have two days off though, so there are really no excuses.

Indeed, the hive will be a tougher place for this Denver team to play, but if they can manage to steal a game, the series will be all but over for New Orleans.

The Nuggets have done a spectacular job on defense so far in the series, and must maintain their intensity to finish off the Hornets.

CP3 has scored far less, and has played a much more diminished role this series than he or coach Byron Scott would have wanted. While West played better Wednesday, 21 points will not be enough for New Orleans to compete.

In reality though, as long as either Paul or West is limited in scoring, the Nuggets should win the game. The Hornets lack of depth means their starters must score huge numbers, if not, they will get blown out like the first two games of this series.

Denver may not win game three, the Hornets first home game in New Orleans, but the game will be close, and should be more exciting and interesting than another demonstrative victory by the Nuggets.

Overall though, if the scores, and Byron Scott's nonverbal cues are any clue, the Hornets are in big trouble in this series, and they know it.