If you are like me, then games against the Denver Nuggets feel a little more important to you than most other regular season games. Every win against the Nuggets acts as a bit of revenge against the Nuggets for what they did to the Hornets in the playoffs two years ago. For Nuggets fans I imagine the Hornets are just another team. For Hornets fans tonight was another opportunity to rectify the past.
Perhaps the Hornets players agree, because they came came out playing physical tonight, scoring in the post and by the same token playing good post defense. As a result the Hornets grabbed the lead early. The Hornets manged to hang on to it and extend it considerably by playing solid on both ends for three quarters. Denver looked listless for many stretches, particularly during the first half, and the game was being played just the way New Orleans likes it: at a very slow pace. The Nuggets were also beating themselves a bit by missing free throws as well as a number of makeable shots around the rim. Midway through the third quarter the Hornets had built a twenty point lead. However, by the fourth quarter, the Nuggets seemed to finally be hustling and playing with some energy. Suddenly the Nuggets started making shots and went on a 13-2 run. It was in the midst of this run that Chris Paul had to sit down due to foul trouble. It seemed as if things might fall apart, but the Hornets had built a big enough cushion to prevent a total collapse, although admittedly they cut it very close. A Chauncey Billups three pointer with four minutes left to play could have tied the game. Luckily, he missed, and soon after David West got the benefit of a questionable call which led to an "and one" play. Chris Paul followed David's 3 points with 3 points of his own and from there Denver couldn't recover. Chalk up one for the revenge column.
Some bullet points:
- Chris Paul had what I thought was a semi-quiet night, but when I looked at the box score I saw that he actually scored 20 points on 13 shots. He also dished out six assists, grabbed three rebounds and even blocked a shot!
- David West was really solid tonight. 19 points on 15 shots, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks. He also played what I thought was very effective defense on Carmelo Anthony late in the game.
- Trevor Ariza finished with 12 points after shooting 5-9 from the field, but he put up some really ugly shots tonight despite those numbers. Nonetheless, it's always nice to see an efficient offensive night from Trevor and his defense was (as usual) quite effective. The talk of the NBA in recent days, Carmelo Anthony was made ineffective tonight, scoring just 8 points on 3-11 shooting.
- Denver's run in the second half corresponded with Denver switching to a zone defense, but I couldn't tell whether the zone was actually bothering the Hornets or it was just the Hornets having a typical Hornets scoring drought.
- Al Harrington was the leading scorer for the Nuggets tonight. He's not a very efficient offensive player generally speaking, but if memory serves it seems as if he's played pretty well against the Hornets in the past few seasons.
- We had another Aaron Gray sighting. He didn't score but he grabbed 3 boards in just 5 minutes. His sheer size also seemed to be a positive on defense.
- Speaking of the bench, it performed surprisingly well tonight considering recent trends. Jarrett Jack scored 10 points on 7 shots and had 2 assists while Willie Green had 11 points on 10 shots and 3 rebounds. Marcus Thornton got a little burn but the ball barely touched his hands.
- 107.6 points per 100 possessions for the Hornets tonight. 98.3 points per 100 possessions for the Nuggets. That's an above average performance offensively and defensively for the Hornets. This was also another very solid rebounding performance for the Hornets, who collected 45 rebounds to the Nuggets 33. Sure, it was a depleted and struggling Nuggets team, but overall it was a nice win.
- JR Smith is a ridiculous person.