Hornets.com postgame: Nuggets 102, Hornets 95

Friday, March 12, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

As one-sided as the 2009 Western Conference playoff series was between the Nuggets and Hornets, New Orleans (32-34) has played much more competitively against Denver (44-21) during this regular season. All three matchups have been decided in the fourth quarter or later, despite the Hornets missing their pair of past All-Stars in two of the matchups.

With only eight players in uniform tonight, the Hornets led 75-73 entering the fourth quarter and were deadlocked with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. From there, the Nuggets took over, going on a 14-4 run that put them in front 100-90 with 2:15 left.

New Orleans’ offense went just 7-for-23 in the fourth quarter, including 0-for-7 from three-point range, with four turnovers.

“It was a really good effort by our entire team,” Hornets coach Jeff Bower said. “I thought we played very, very hard. I thought we were able to manage a few things that we were trying to do going into the game. The game separated with a few possessions (in the fourth quarter) when we didn’t get shots.”

Other news:
• For the second straight game, Julian Wright drew the assignment of defending a premier NBA scorer. Two days after facing Kevin Durant, the matchup was Carmelo Anthony, who scored 32 points but took 27 shots to do so. The Hornets were sending double-teams at Anthony frequently, but David West said the Nuggets adjusted by moving Anthony further from the basket, making it much more difficult to double him because of the space created.
“I thought he did a very good job throughout the game,” Bower said of Wright. “I thought our team defense was very strong, and that’s what allowed us to keep this thing tight.”
• New Orleans will depart for Arizona on Saturday in advance of Sunday’s game at Phoenix, one of the West’s hotter teams. The Hornets will play five games on the upcoming seven-day road trip, including facing Denver and Utah. The team will hope that James Posey can return to action as soon as possible, which at least would give New Orleans a complement of nine players on the trek.
“It’s a long, difficult trip filled with good opponents,” Bower assessed. “We don’t need to feel sorry for ourselves because of the injury situation. Nobody (else) does. We understand the challenges and the changes that that creates.”

Posey out, only 8 Hornets available vs. Nuggets

The Hornets have battled through various injuries all season, so being shorthanded is nothing new, but tonight vs. Denver (7 p.m., New Orleans Arena) will be the first time in 2009-10 that they’ve entered a game with only eight players available.

James Posey (flu-like symptoms) is the latest player to be hit by injury or illness, leaving Jeff Bower with just three substitutes to bring in off the bench. Marcus Thornton, Darius Songaila and Aaron Gray will be the only Hornets reserves.

“It means there are going to be a lot of minutes available,” Bower said. “Guys are going to get an opportunity to play and play well. That’s how we’re approaching it.”

The individual whose role figures to spike the most noticeably will be Julian Wright, who will make his second consecutive start filling in at small forward for Peja Stojakovic. Bower said he was encouraged by Wright’s 10-point outing at Oklahoma City on Wednesday. The 6-foot-8 small forward isn’t exactly getting eased into the mix, facing Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony in the two games.

“I think he worked really hard,” Bower said. “I think he made a lot of good plays and it was a solid performance by him against one of the guys that score the ball as easy as anyone. It was quite a challenge for him. Tonight will be not a lot different, with Carmelo Anthony. He’s carrying a heavy load in these two games. We’re expecting (Wright's) comfort level to be a bit higher as he gets more comfortable with that.”