Hornets 101, Nuggets 95
Just as the Denver Nuggets began to seize the momentum, Hornets
coach Monty Williams turned to his bench and told Chris Paul to
check back in.
That might have been the single best move New Orleans’ still
unbeaten rookie coach made all game.
Paul scored 10 of his 18 points inside the final nine minutes
and assisted on three key baskets during a decisive 13-2 run that
sent the Hornets to a 101-95 victory over the Denver Nuggets on
”Chris kind of took over there,” Williams said. ”It’s just a
big win for our team.”
David West scored 17 points and Emeka Okafor, who did not
attempt a shot in the Hornets’ opener on Wednesday, added 13 points
in the club’s second game.
Carmelo Anthony had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Denver, which
led 79-74 early in the fourth quarter before Williams called
timeout and put Paul back on the floor.
Afterward, Anthony said the game showed why Paul, his friend, is
the best point guard in the league.
”That’s my guy, so I know he wants to prove that he is one of
the top point guards in the NBA,” Anthony said. ”I think by his
injury (last season), a lot of people stopped talking about him,
which is normal. Any time you’re not in the picture, people tend to
forget about you sometimes. But I’m glad to see him back and doing
what he’s doing.”
Paul missed 37 games last season with three injuries, the most
serious a torn meniscus in his left knee. He has worn a brace on
that knee in the first two games, though it doesn’t seem to have
bothered him much. He had 17 points and 16 assists Wednesday in New
Orleans’ opening win over Milwaukee. He finished with a game-high
seven assists against Denver, along with seven rebounds and a
Now the Hornets are 2-0 with wins over a pair of playoff teams
from last season.
”We might have surprised them,” Paul said of the Nuggets. ”It
doesn’t even matter. After that first quarter, they knew who we
were. We just wanted to go out there and try to fight.”
Chauncey Billups had 20 points for Denver, J.R. Smith added 12
and Al Harrington 11.
Both teams shot better than 48 percent, but the Hornets’ defense
stepped up in the final minutes, with David West stuffing Billups’
drive and Okafor swatting away a shot by Anthony. Denver also was
done in by 20 turnovers, including four each by Billups and Shelden
Williams, and three each by Anthony and Smith.
”We made too many mistakes late in the game – too many
turnovers in the fourth quarter,” Denver coach George Karl said.
”In general, we put up a pretty good fight for a road game …
(but) Chris Paul is pretty good in the fourth quarter in his own
The Hornets struggled at times to contain Anthony, who scored 10
in the third quarter on a range of jump shots and strong drives
while helping the Nuggets erase a nine-point halftime deficit. Then
Denver, which had not led since the first quarter, went back in
front on Harrington’s 3 with 1:44 to go in the third period.
With Paul and West on the bench to start the fourth, Denver was
able to push its lead to five on Harrington’s dunk before Williams
sent Paul back into the game with just under nine minutes to
Paul quickly hit a mid-range jumper and set up Okafor’s dunk. He
then scored on a putback and a jumper before setting up West for an
open jump shot that put the Hornets in front 86-84. On New Orleans’
next possession, Paul fired a cross-court pass to an open Trevor
Ariza, who hit a 3 to make it 89-84 with 4:56 to go.
”A lot of people can’t make that pass,” Anthony said.
Paul later made three free throws after Billups fouled him in
the corner as the shot clock wound down. West added a turnaround
just before the shot clock expired to make it 94-88. West added
another key basket in the final minute, after which a frustrated
Billups was called for a technical foul. Paul made the resulting
free throw to extend the lead to 97-90, and Denver never
Ariza finished with 11 points and Marcus Thornton 10 for New
Williams had 13 rebounds for Denver and Arron Afflalo had 10
The Hornets got 37 points from reserves, who helped them open a
double-digit lead that got as big as 16 at 53-37 in the second
Billups, who had 13 points in the first half, hit five free
throws in the last 1:20 of the second quarter to help the Nuggets
trim the deficit to 59-50.
NOTES: West moved into third on the Hornets’ career scoring
list, two points ahead if Larry Johnson, who had 7,405. … Paul
was called for a technical for 1:20 left in the second quarter for
apparently showing up the referee after a foul was called against
Denver. … Attendance was 12,474, nearly 5,000 short of a