Hornets.com postgame: Nuggets 101, Hornets 88

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Although New Orleans (44-26) has managed to remain competitive recently while playing without Tyson Chandler (ankle) and Peja Stojakovic (back), the Hornets’ offensive production has noticeably dipped. Over the past nine games, New Orleans has reached 100 points just once, including three outputs of 85 points or less.

Another ineffective performance on that end – combined with Denver’s aggressive, trapping strategy that focused on getting the ball out of Chris Paul’s hands – resulted in a key victory for the Nuggets in the chase for playoff positioning. Denver (46-26) moved a full game in front of New Orleans, while evening the season series at two games apiece.A few other developments from tonight:

• New Orleans normally does an excellent job of limiting turnovers, averaging just 12.7 a game, which is fourth-best in the NBA. But tonight the Hornets were too sloppy. They finished with 19 turnovers and had several possessions end almost before they began with miscues in the backcourt. “It’s a little concerning, because we’re usually good at taking care of the ball, but the last five or six games we’ve been in the 16th to 18th range. We’ve got to do a better job of being a little more cautious. In the state we’re in, the one thing we can’t do is give the other team (19) more opportunities.”

• Scott described his team’s defensive performance as satisfactory. Carmelo Anthony was huge for the Nuggets, piling up 29 points, including 27 in the first three quarters. “We could have done a better job, but we did OK (on defense). I thought we came out and played hard and were pretty aggressive; we just ran into a buzzsaw in the second half.”

Byron Scott

“We talked about their big three, Carmelo, Chauncey, and JR, you really need to slow those guys down and we didn’t. All three of them had pretty good nights and that’s they won the game. We got to put the ball in shooters hands when other teams are trying to take CP out of the game. We did a good job but we could have done a better job.”

Chris Paul
On 19 turnovers tonight: “I think some of it was ball handling. A few of them were offensive fouls and different things like that, but those count as turnovers too. Some of it was steals and us just trying to go too fast.”
On if it’s frustrating missing key players: “We just have to stay afloat. Those guys know that we need them back. They can’t come back until they’re healthy. Guys have been stepping up and doing their part and stuff like that, but we have to continue to play.”
On the final stretch of the season: “Everything is so close right now that every game is a big game. We’re fine. We would have liked to finish the season 13-0, but it probably wasn’t going to happen. We’ve just got to continue to play hard and get ready for the Knicks.”

Antonio Daniels
On the loss: “When you have a guy like Carmello (Anthony), who has the complete game. You add a guy like Chauncey (Billups) who really balances out that team and J.R. (Smith) who did the scoring off of the bench, it’s a very difficult three to deal with. We made them take tough shots. Some of them they hit, some of them they missed. In this league, that’s the only thing that you can ask for. Give them a contested jump shot. If they knock it down, more power to them.”

Status of four Hornets remains uncertain

There was little new to report from this morning’s shootaround on the injury status of four Hornets - Tyson Chandler (ankle), Peja Stojakovic (back), Hilton Armstrong (finger) and Ryan Bowen (shoulder). Byron Scott was uncertain which of the quartet will be available for tonight’s key 7 p.m. home game vs. Denver, meaning New Orleans’ starting five and rotation is written entirely in pencil.

“We’ll just wait until tonight and see how those guys feel,” Scott said. “Right now it’s day-to-day. It’s going to be an interesting night up until game time, to find out who can play and who can’t.

“But there are no excuses. Whoever puts that (Hornets) uniform on tonight is going to have to be ready to play. We’re playing a very good basketball team and there are a lot of implications on this game. We just have to come ready to play, no matter who plays.”

Scott also addressed specific questions on each player. Here were his comments:

On whether he is concerned that Stojakovic has been called “day-to-day” for more than three weeks now:

“I don’t think so. Our training staff has been doing everything possible to try to get him ready. Peja has been doing all the (rehab) work as well. He just has something where he wakes up one day and feels much better, then he wakes up the next day and feels much worse… Hopefully in the next 10 or 12 hours, he’ll feel pretty good. If not, we’ll have to wait until Friday (at New York) and see how he feels then.”

On Armstrong’s likelihood of playing tonight:
“It just depends on his discomfort. It’s a finger with stitches in it, so it’s going to be tender. We’re going to put a protective pad on it, but obviously (his availability) is based on his threshhold for pain. Hopefully he’ll be ready tonight.”

On Chandler:
“I’m not sure (if he can play tonight). He did a little work after practice (Tuesday). (Trainer) Terry (Kofler) tried giving him an ankle brace, then taking his orthotics out, a few different things to try to relieve some of the pressure on (his left ankle). Now it just comes down to whether he’s ready to play. If not, we’ve got to go with (the players) we’ve got.”

On Bowen:
“He’s probably the one who’s had the quickest healing process. He’s says he feels fine, but if he plays tonight, he has to put a protective pad on his shoulder. He’ll basically be playing with one arm.”

Scott added that if both Armstrong and Chandler are unavailable, it could mean a larger role and more minutes for both Sean Marks and Melvin Ely. The latter has been used sparingly of late, appearing in two games this month.
The winner of Wednesday’s West matchup will have the fourth-best record in the conference, behind the Lakers, Spurs and Rockets.