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Nuggets 114, Hornets 103: J.R. Smith is J.R. Smith

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The Hornets put up a thoroughly horrific defensive performance en route to getting blown out on their own home floor in a game with major playoff implications. The team couldn't defend the paint, perimeter, or anything in between, with defenders being repeatedly schooled by basically every player on the Nuggets' roster.

The thing that stands out most about Denver's wildly efficient offense night is, of course, the threes. Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler, both career 32% three point shooters, combined to knock down 10 shots from deep. And I cite their career numbers not as as an implication of luck, but more as an indictment of the Hornets' ability to deal with Denver's offensive sets. George Karl and his team didn't run anything particularly complicated; rather, their shooters simply drifted often to open space (especially in transition) and some crisp passing made certain that open players were located.

When Denver missed its shots (at an effective FG% of 66% on the night, this wasn't often), they rebounded well offensively. The biggest culprits on the defensive glass for New Orleans were David West and Trevor Ariza. West scraped together 2 defensive rebounds in 35 minutes on the floor. It's tough to say he was outworked, as he was constantly matched up with taller and longer Nugget opponents; he certainly wasn't put in a position to succeed. Ariza, on the other hand, has fewer excuses. There were multiple instances of just egregious box-outs from him tonight, including one in the second quarter where he ostensibly attempted to shove a defender clear using his elbows... and was rightly called for a loose ball foul. Ariza has been integral to the team's rebounding success this year, so losing his rebounds completely was a huge blow. 

Ultimately, good on the Hornets for not giving up and trying to fight back in the fourth quarter. But the hole they dug themselves with their lack of defense through three quarters was too deep to climb out of. Notes after the jump.

- I loved Monty Williams' decision to play Jason Smith and use him in the David West role in the fourth quarter. West's shot was woefully off tonight, so Monty opted to run all of West's plays for Jason. Smith responded by keeping the Hornets within shouting distance with his shooting. 

- The only thing Denver failed to do well offensively in this game was take care of the ball. Much of this had to do with the Hornets' active hands, but Denver made some really poor decisions with the ball. Almost a quarter of their possessions ended in turnovers.

- Turnovers plagued the Hornets in the first half, but they turned it around in the second. 

- There might not be a worse offensive player in the NBA right now than Trevor Ariza. That we can consider his 4 for 9, 3 turnover performance "good" by his standards tells you all you need to know.

- West's poor rebounding night was mentioned up top, and his poor shooting form was implied in the Smith bullet, but his play probably deserves its own bullet. Basically nothing went his way- perhaps the best way to describe it is to juxtapose his line with Kenyon Martin's- 6 points on 9 shots for West, 10 points on 8 for Martin (who was in fine "chuck it whenever I have it" form). West did pick up 6 assists though.

- Raymond Felton was huuuuuuuge. He basically equaled Chris Paul's line coming off the bench. As soon as the Hornets went up 11-2 in the first quarter, George Karl inserted Felton into the lineup and reaped the rewards. It all just goes to prove that regardless of team affiliation, Raymond Felton is still Raymond Felton. 

- J.R. Smith.