Although a few of the details changed from Sundays Game 1, the script was painfully similar for the Hornets tonight: after scratching and clawing just to stay within striking distance early, New Orleans was on the wrong end of a second-half Denver surge that enabled the spirited, fast-breaking Nuggets to take control. The end result was a second straight one-sided road defeat.
Seventy-two hours after losing by a 29-point margin, the Hornets fell behind by 20-plus points in the fourth quarter and were beaten by 15. The best news from a New Orleans perspective may be that the series now shifts to the Crescent City for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 will tip off at the New Orleans Arena at noon.
Chauncey Billups didnt follow up his eight-trey performance in Game 1 with a similar long-range barrage, but he didnt need to, because he beat the Hornets from just about everywhere else on the floor. Billups did sink four more three-pointers in Game 2, but he also went 11-for-11 from the foul line and piled up 31 points. He averaged 33.5 points in these two games, nearly doubling his 2008-09 regular season average of 17.7.
The Nuggets again demonstrated their superiority in athleticism and quickness over the Hornets when they were able to create turnovers and push the tempo in the second half. Denver took advantage of a third-quarter stretch when New Orleans missed 14 of its initial 17 shots to take command after leading 52-44 at halftime. It again appeared as though New Orleans best hope of posting a road victory in this series will be to try to make it a slow-paced, walk-it-up game so that Denver cannot go on one of its patented game-changing runs.
New Orleans also needs to take much better care of the ball. Its 17 turnovers were a big factor behind Denvers ability to build and expand its lead.
Chris Paul: He finished with 14 points and 13 assists, with Denver and Dahntay Jones doing an excellent job of swarming him whenever he tries to penetrate. Paul was just 1-for-5 shooting in the first half and he finished the game with five turnovers. The Nuggets also had to be pleased with CP3 getting only 11 shot attempts.
Rasual Butler: Played much better than in Game 1, hitting his first four shots, all from three-point land.
Peja Stojakovic: Went 1-for-4 in the first half but heated up after intermission, going 4-for-5. He bagged four trifectas. On the other end, he had an extremely difficult time matched up with Carmelo Anthony, whose jump-shooting prowess tonight made him an even tougher cover than usual.
David West: His 21-point, 11-rebound outing was a major improvement from Game 1 (4-for-16, 12 points). After a quick start, he had one stretch in the first half when he was 1-for-7, but heated back up later.
Tyson Chandler: He was limping again at times but managed to play 36 minutes. He scored seven points and grabbed 11 rebounds, including four on the offensive boards.
James Posey: After a quiet Game 1, he made a bigger impact, with 12 points and eight rebounds. He came out aggressive, throwing down a flying dunk on one of his first touches. He was physical on defense as well, drawing a charge in the paint from Kenyon Martin. Overall, he shot 3-for-8.
Antonio Daniels: His second-quarter stint was going well for the first few minutes, but a couple missed shots led to Denver fast breaks and baskets at the other end, part of a mini-run that resulted in the Nuggets building a cushion for the first time. He went 1-for-5 and had two points.
Sean Marks: The first big man off the bench this game, instead of Hilton Armstrong, he had two points and three boards in eight minutes.
Julian Wright: After playing only in mop-up time of Game 1, he entered early in the second quarter tonight. Totaled eight minutes, two points, two boards and an assist.
Devin Brown: Helped the second unit tread water in the first half by hitting a deep jumper, dropping in a layup and snaring two offensive rebounds. Made noticeable defensive mistake when an unnecessary double-team left Billups open for trey from left wing.
Hilton Armstrong: Logged quiet four minutes in the second half.