Hornets.com postgame: Nuggets 121, Hornets 63

Monday, April 27, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Needing a win to avoid falling into a 3-1 deficit only eight teams in NBA history have overcome, the Hornets instead made some ignominious history of their own. Dominated in every facet of the game, New Orleans lost by 58 points - not a misprint - on its home floor. The 58-point differential equaled the largest margin in the history of the NBA playoffs, tying a game played during the 1956 postseason.

For a third time in this series, the Nuggets rolled over the Hornets, showing that their pair of home routs over New Orleans were no fluke. This Denver victory was substantially more one-sided than its triumphs at the Pepsi Center last week.

Chris Paul used some form of the word “embarrassment” three times after the game while speaking to the media. There were virtually no bright spots to speak of from a New Orleans perspective. Two of the most damaging areas for the Hornets that helped ignite the Nuggets’ blowout were shooting and turnovers.

New Orleans went 17-for-54 from the field, connecting on a meager 31.5 percent of its attempts. The Hornets had quarters of 15, 11 and 13 points en route to an awful offensive performance. The hosts also committed 27 turnovers.

With 1:07 remaining in regulation, Hornets reserve Devin Brown scored on a fast-break layup to give the home team its 63rd point of the game. Denver had scored 61 points in the first half en route to a 22-point edge.

Byron Scott

Q: After a tough loss like this, what do you do now? Where do you go from here?
Scott: Just like I told the (players), I want them to think about what happened tonight. Just rewind it in their minds, sit in the locker room and think about it, and when you get home (later) think about it. The bottom line is when we get to Denver it’s a one-game elimination for us. We want to try our best to make sure we get this thing back here to New Orleans for Game 6. Our backs are against the wall. We have to come out fighting in Denver.

Q: What do you think happened to result in this outcome tonight?
Scott: I thought Denver started off the game very aggressive. I thought they took us out of everything on both ends of the floor. I didn’t think we reacted well to it. I didn’t think (the Nuggets) were being overly aggressive; they were just ready for the game. Their intensity level was sky-high. I told the guys on the bench that if we don’t match their level of intensity, this game’s going to be over quick. I don’t think we ever did (match it). They were scrambling all over the place and everyone was covering each other’s back. They were all over us. We turned the ball over again and that was a problem. (When you commit) 27 turnovers, you’re not going to win a whole lot of basketball games.

Q: George Karl said he doesn’t think Chris Paul is (100 percent). Tyson Chandler seemed to be limping around a lot. How is your team health-wise?
Scott: Well, we’re not good. But we’re not going to use that as an excuse. Our guys, when they put their uniforms on, they have to be ready to play. From a physical standpoint, Tyson is just playing on sheer guts right now. Again, we’re not going to use that as an excuse.

Q: So was Chris ready to go? Or was (his performance) due to Denver’s defense?
Scott: I know he was ready to go. But Denver’s defense was fantastic tonight. This was the worst we’ve played since I’ve been here, in the five years. That’s the worst basketball game I’ve ever seen us play. It just came at the wrong time.

Q: Can you describe what Carmelo was doing offensively in the first half?
Scott: Making shots. It was pretty simple. He was making some tough shots. He looked like he had a little pep in his step, but their whole team did. They looked like they were a step or two quicker and faster than we were out there.

Q: You talked about getting better play from your bench all season. Denver got a great performance from their bench tonight. Talk about how much of an advantage that was.
Scott: It’s huge, because you get a chance to give some of your guys some rest, when you have a bench that can come in and perform for you. Sean (Marks ) and (James) Posey and Antonio Daniels have been the main guys we’ve brought in off the bench, and I had to shorten the rotation. It’s a big advantage any time you have a bench like Denver has, where they can come in and be explosive offensively.

Q: You talked about your team’s lack of aggression. What do you do to change that?
Scott: I don’t know what you do to change that, but that is a big disappointment, with what was at stake, the opportunity to go back to Denver 2-2. (We wanted) to come out and stand toe to toe and take the blows. Once they delivered them I thought we were on our heels. You’re not going to win a whole lot of games doing that.

Chris Paul
Q: How are you feeling physically? George Karl said he thought you didn’t look like you were 100 percent.
Paul: I’m good. Other than that whipping we just took, I’m good.

Q: Chauncey Billups has given the Hornets a lot of trouble. Can you talk about what he brings to a team?
Paul: He brings a lot of experience to them. He’s been to six conference finals in the Eastern Conference. Look at their team. You’ve got Chauncey out there, Carmelo – who should’ve been an All-Star – J.R. Smith and a lot of great players.

Q: How much more physical were they tonight?
Paul: They were very physical. We tried to be also. This (loss) had nothing to do with the officials or anything like that. They beat us. They made shots and we didn’t. We turned the ball over on just about every possession. It was embarrassing.

Q: Are you surprised that your team didn’t react to that aggression?
Paul: Yes. I was somewhat surprised that we didn’t, but every time we tried something, they countered it. I think there was a little bit of both. We didn’t play well, and they executed their game plan to perfection. They embarrassed us.

Q: Did you feel their defense was swarming on you and given you more trouble (than most opponents)?
Paul: Well, it’s no secret that they trap (me). On the inbounds pass they deny (the ball). They try to keep the ball out of my hands as much as possible. We’ve been trying to make adjustments to it just about every game. We’ll look at the film and see what we can do differently.

Q: How do you guys bounce back from this?
Paul: Understand that while it was embarrassing and they beat us pretty badly, it’s still one game. We have the opportunity going to Denver to try to get one. Our backs are against the wall. I’m very interested to see how we react, because after losing like that at home, to me there is only one way to react, and that’s to come back strong at Denver. If we can win that game, it will put us at 3-2, and give us the opportunity to come back and make up (for it).

Game 4 key questions (Nuggets lead series 2-1)

(Visit Hornets.com's Playoff Central page for audio interviews with Byron Scott and Sean Marks from Sunday's practice at the Alario Center)

A few things to watch for in Game 4, as the Hornets attempt to even the series prior to their Tuesday’s flight to Denver for Wednesday’s Game 5 at the Pepsi Center:

1) Can the Hornets maintain their level of offensive aggressiveness from Game 3?
An interesting stat from Hornets radio host Joe Block: Over the past two seasons, New Orleans has never attempted 30-plus free throws in consecutive games. The Hornets were 28-for-35 at the foul line on Saturday, after finishing 28th out of NBA 30 teams during the regular season in total free-throw attempts. New Orleans is more reliant on jump-shooting than most NBA clubs, which partly explains its relative lack of trips to the charity stripe. But when the outside shots aren’t falling for the Hornets, they become infinitely more beatable when they’re not trying to drive to the basket. In this series, not settling for perimeter shots has been even more imperative, because Denver’s fast-break attack can be fueled by long rebounds three-point misses that give the Nuggets’ transition game a head start.
2) How will physical play affect Game 4?
Although there has been more drama in a few other 2009 first-round series (especially in Celtics-Bulls, which is shaping up as a classic so far), Nuggets-Hornets has arguably featured more hard fouls and testy moments than any of the eight matchups. There were three flagrant fouls during the second half of Game 3, along with two technical fouls. The atmosphere inside the New Orleans Arena on Saturday was about as intense as you can imagine, with a sellout crowd producing a decibel level that Hornets reserve big man Sean Marks described as “the loudest gym I’ve ever been in.” Players from both teams have said that they understand there has been nothing personal to some of the hard fouls, and that the contact is just part of the territory in the playoffs. So far the Nuggets and Hornets have done a commendable job of staying composed despite a few cases of extraneous jawing and posturing on the floor.
3) How will the Hornets’ frontcourt respond to a subpar Game 3?
Much of the talk from Denver after Game 3 was that it was an encouraging day despite the loss, because the Nuggets played poorly yet still had a chance to win on Carmelo Anthony’s mid-range jumper in the final seconds. From a Hornets standpoint, however, they can point to winning a game despite one of the poorest combined showings of the season from their starting frontcourt of Peja Stojakovic, David West and Tyson Chandler. Stojakovic was 1-for-9 shooting and missed all of its jump shots; West had a miserable time around the basket, missing countless chippies; Chandler’s outing was limited to just 18 minutes due to constant foul trouble. West did end up with decent numbers of 19 points and nine rebounds before fouling out, but New Orleans essentially received no production from its small forward and center. If both Stojakovic and Chandler can make a larger impact tonight, the Hornets’ chances of equaling the series improve drastically.
Other notes from Hornets shootaround this morning in the Arena:
• It’s uncertain how much James Posey will be affected, if at all, by the sprained knee he sustained in Game 3. “He’s going to give it everything he’s got, but I have no idea what to expect tonight,” Byron Scott said. Scott added that if Posey’s minutes need to be reduced, Julian Wright, Devin Brown or Morris Peterson will likely move into the rotation.
• Chris Paul said the knee injury that resulted from his fast-break collision with J.R. Smith in Game 3 will not impact his play tonight. “I’m good to go,” Paul said.
• Tyson Chandler mentioned that after Game 2’s defeat, Posey entered the Hornets’ locker room and told his teammates to “keep fighting” and not think that the series is over. Posey was part of the 2006 NBA champion Miami Heat, who rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Dallas. Based on the physicality of Nuggets-Hornets so far, a reporter jokingly asked Chandler if the “keep fighting” suggestion by Posey was meant to be taken literally. A grinning Chandler responded, “No, not at all. I can’t afford (the fines). I’ve got to be able to send my kids to school.”
• Chandler said he heard Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups visited Jazz Fest on Sunday, but did not receive a warm welcome from New Orleanians. Stressing that there is nothing personal to this series, Chandler smiled and said that if he’d been standing near Billups during Jazz Fest, Chandler would’ve “tried to help him out a little bit” in dealing with the crowd.