Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 96, Nuggets 87

Sunday, January 9, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (22-16), Nuggets (20-16)

It was over when… Denver fans began streaming for the exits with 48 seconds remaining, as Chris Paul made two free throws to give New Orleans a nine-point advantage. The Hornets finished a difficult road trip to the Lakers and Nuggets at 1-1, moving ahead of the latter and into sixth place in the Western Conference standings. "This was a big win for us," Chris Paul said. "This shows a little bit of growth for us, to hold this (Denver) team down, because they can really pile up points. It's a good win."

Hornets MVP: David West delivered the most pivotal basket of the fourth quarter, a conventional three-point play on an aggressive post-up of former teammate J.R. Smith, doubling the Hornets' lead from three to six points. With Paul having to sit up a chunk of the final period with five fouls, West logged a team-high 40 minutes, finishing with 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Willie Green put himself in the running by racking up 11 points in the first half after a scoreless game at the Lakers on Friday. Jarrett Jack proved to be pivotal in the fourth quarter, though, stepping in for Paul and draining two three-pointers. Jack scored eight of his 10 points in that final stanza, when NOLA held on for the victory. “Outstanding," Paul assessed of Jack’s fourth-quarter play. “We know he’s capable of it. Big thanks to my team; they held me down when I was out (due to foul trouble).”

The buzz on… the Western Conference race and the Nuggets’ status within it. Over the past day or so, rumors again have heated up that Denver is on the verge of making a blockbuster trade. Some analysts are speculating that the Nuggets are mulling a complete overhaul of their roster and rebuilding for the future. If you did a survey of the other contending teams in the West, they’d completely support that idea, because it could subtract one club from the large group of clubs that are trying to reach the 2011 playoffs (remember, it was only May 2009 that the Nuggets were in the Western Conference finals).

Either way, although it’s a bit early after Game No. 38 to get too wrapped up in tiebreaking scenarios or forecasting the West postseason hunt, from a Hornets perspective it’s worth noting that Sunday’s victory wrapped up the season series against the Nuggets. On a rotating basis, the Hornets face teams in the Northwest and Pacific divisions either three or four times per season. This season they only have three games vs. Denver. As a result, with New Orleans now up 2-0 in the head-to-head series, it is guaranteed to win a tiebreaker vs. Denver. One game between the teams remains, on March 14 in Louisiana.

Blog question of the night: What mid-term grade would you give the team’s starting 4, power forward David West? He was an All-Star in 2008 and 2009, but was not selected to the game by West coaches last season. Based on his play so far, does he deserve to be an All-Star next month?