On Saturday morning, Byron Scott scribbled a note and had it delivered to Chris Paul, emphasizing the importance of the All-Star point guards play in Game 3. Though Paul had averaged 17.5 points and 12.0 assists in Denver, by his lofty standards, it hadnt been a great two-game start to the series, particularly compared to the dominance of Chauncey Billups.
It was pretty much a challenge to me, telling me that I needed to do whatever I had to do to help us win, Paul said of the note, following todays two-point victory.
Paul responded the way he always has during his spectacular four-year NBA career, helping lift New Orleans to a crucial victory. He finished with 32 points (11-for-20 shooting) and 12 assists. During an ominous open to the game for the Hornets, CP3 was the lone Hornet to tally a basket in the initial 8:46 of action.
Although he did commit six turnovers, Pauls individual performance was an absolute must. New Orleans prevailed despite subpar games from its entire starting frontcourt: Peja Stojakovic (1-for-9, 4 points) couldnt locate his shooting touch; Tyson Chandler (2 points, 3 rebounds, 18 minutes) was in foul trouble all game before picking up his sixth personal in the fourth quarter; and David West (7-for-18, 19 points) could not buy a break on numerous point-blank shots.
The Hornets bench, maligned all season for its lack of production or consistency, delivered at the most opportune time. James Posey (13 points, 9 rebounds) played perhaps his best game over the past couple months, including pulling down an enormous defensive rebound off Carmelo Anthonys miss with 2.9 seconds to go. Sean Marks (8 points, 6 rebounds) sparked the first-half surge that allowed the Hornets to get back into the game after falling behind by 16. After subbing in for Chandler due to the starting centers foul trouble, Marks threw down three dunks and provided the squad with a burst of energy.
When Sean came into the game, he really changed the game for us, Paul credited. He probably played a lot more minutes than hes used to. He started getting winded, but I just told him to push through it.
His minutes were big and Pose came in and hit (three-pointers)
The game could have really got ugly for us. We could have went down 15 or 20 points, but those guys kept us in it.
Chris Paul: Nuggets coach George Karl was dismayed after Game 3 because, unlike in the games at Denver, Karls club was ineffective across the board against Paul. This was the first (game) that (the Hornets) got everything, Karl said. They got the layups, the three-ball, and (Paul) got his points. Were going to have to make an adjustment so that we can control one of those. Hes so good that hes always going to be able to get something going.
Paul has committed a high number of turnovers against Denver this season, something that may be at least partly explained by the athleticism of the Nuggets that allows them to get their hands on aggressive passes. CP3 was also called for a rare palming violation today.
Rasual Butler: He was quiet early, but ended up with a very solid game. Scored 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting, including seven points in the fourth quarter. Butler drilled what seemed at the time like a potentially back-breaking three-pointer with 8:17 remaining, to make it 82-74.
Peja Stojakovic: Had several good looks from long distance but was unable to convert. His lone basket was a fast-break layup off a feed from Antonio Daniels.
David West: He appears to be rushing his shot around the rim a bit. That may at least partly be due to Denvers shot-blocking threats, which might make a player want to get rid of the ball more quickly. West was 5-for-15 through three quarters but tallied two big hoops in the final period.
Tyson Chandler: He said after the game that his ankle felt about the same today as it did in Game 2, so no change there. His minutes were limited today based on foul trouble, but Chandler said he couldve played 30 to 35 minutes were it not for the fouls.
James Posey: Its often been said that the Hornets signed Posey for the playoffs. His contributions were immense in postseason victory No. 1 for the Hornets. When the team seemed to be on the verge of getting blown out in the opening quarter, he came in and scored 10 first-half points. As a team, we went through a rough spot, he said of the slow start. I wanted to come in aggressive, taking charges and being aggressive. Thats what was needed.
Sean Marks: Joked in the locker room that some of the emotion and energy he showed today was due to the can of Red Bull I drank before the game. One possibly overlooked play by Marks that CP3 mentioned was Marks deflection prior to Carmelo taking a rushed turnaround mid-range shot on the second-to-last possession by Denver. George Karl said he thought Anthony didnt realize how open he actually was on the play after Anthony scooped up the ball.
Antonio Daniels: It may have come as a surprise that his minutes increased today after he had not played well in Denver, but he allowed CP3 to play off the ball for some of ADs 15 minutes on the floor. Daniels was 0-for-2 but had three assists and no turnovers.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES
On the game: We came out much more aggressive defensively; we stayed focused on what we talked about doing. We were able to get up and down the court a little bit more.
On James Posey and Sean Marks: When they got in the game the momentum shifted, (James) Posey is a great defensive player, he came is aggressively on that in and was able to know down some shots as well. (Sean) Marks was able to do a good job on setting screens and getting to the basket. Those two guys were huge for us
On his tech: It was a terrible call. Just like Chancey Billups foul on Rasual (Butler), if that would have been (James) Posey on one of their players he would have been thrown out of the game. (James) Posey didnt do anything; he tried to hold Bird (Chris Anderson) up on the foul. It was a good hard foul, but to get a flagrant on that foul, you have to almost throw the guy down as well, and that wasnt his intention.
On the game: We just havent shot the ball well, but we made some good plays today. Defensively, we were able to make their life a little more difficult than it has been for the first couple of games. We kept Chauncey from doing everything that he wants. The guys did a good job of making it tougher for him. I think we played a more complete game from start to finish.
On the game: We were excited, juiced up to be back home. We understand how big of a game this was. When coach called the first time out, he told us just to settle down. We played together and made some adjustments on both ends. We still have to make a few adjustments. We did a good job executing. The guys are really focused right now.