Billups Helps Nuggets Take 2-0 Lead On Hornets

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

DENVER -- Chauncey Billups hasn't had this much fun on the basketball court in Denver since he was winning two high school state titles back in the mid-1990s.

Billups led the Nuggets to another blowout of the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night, scoring 31 points in Denver's 108-93 win.

The best-of-seven series shifts to New Orleans for Game 3 on Saturday night with the Nuggets holding just the third 2-0 edge in their 33-year NBA history.

This is the first time the Nuggets have won the first two games of a playoff series since 1985, when they took care of Utah in five games in the Western Conference semifinals.

Billups' arrival from Detroit in the lopsided Allen Iverson trade transformed the Nuggets from an afterthought to the West's second seed and a franchise record-tying 54 wins. Now, he has his hometown team closing in on its first trip to the second round in 15 years.

After his one-man offensive outburst in the opener, Billups, who attended the University of Colorado in nearby Boulder after leading Denver's George Washington High School to two state titles, had company in the limelight on this night.

Carmelo Anthony, quiet in Game 1 with just 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting, scored 22 points and dished out nine assists. J.R. Smith added 15 points.

David West scored 21 points to lead the Hornets, but he needed 20 shots to do it. Peja Stojakovic added 17 points and Chris Paul had 14 points and 13 assists.

Once again, the Hornets were hounded relentlessly by Denver's defense, finding few answers to Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen, Nene and Dahntay Jones.

In an attempt to bottle up Billups, the Hornets changed their defensive look and assigned Paul to cover him. That didn't work, either. Billups burned him just like he did Rasual Butler in the first game when he erupted for 36 points and eight 3-pointers.

Denver took control of this one early, using an 11-0 run to build a double-digit lead in the second quarter, and Billups was right in the middle of it.

After a quick breather on the bench, Billups came in and sank a 15-footer after getting hacked by Julian Wright. He exchanged high-fives with Anthony, who was still on the bench, then swished the free throw. He fed Nene the next time downcourt with a sweet assist that had the Pepsi Center rocking.

Billups pulled up for a 3-pointer that rattled out but right into the hands of Andersen, who threw down the dunk as the crowd roared and Hornets coach Byron Scott called for a timeout.

Billups told his celebrating teammates to calm down during the break, then sank a jumper out of the timeout and two more free throws to cap the 11-point spurt.

The Nuggets took a 52-44 halftime lead thanks to Billups' third straight 18-point half in this series.

The Hornets started to get flustered in the third quarter when Billups spun free past Paul then pulled up for a jumper in the middle of a 16-4 run that turned Game 2 into as much of a laugher as Game 1.

The opener was chippy and as the week went on, Scott seemed to get more and more agitated when talking about Jones' physical play on Paul, which he said went overboard at times.

So, what's the difference between being physical and downright dirty?

"Usually winning and losing," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "The winning team thinks you're physical and the losing team thinks you're dirty. Playoff series can get intense and it might already be to the point that they don't like us and we don't like them. And that's the way it should be."

There were more hard fouls on this night and Paul got pinballed around again, but it didn't get out of hand.

Game notes
Scott showed his team the tape of the Nuggets' 113-84 win in Game 1 before tip-off Wednesday night "to get it fresh in their mind. The last thing I want them to see before we go out is the tape of the last game we played. Just the highlights -- highlights to them, lowlights to us." ... Nuggets coach George Karl, who was on the wrong side of Houston C Dikembe Mutombo's playoff successes in Seattle in 1994 and Philadelphia in 2001, was saddened to hear the big man say his career is over after a knee injury Tuesday night. "He had a few good moments against me," Karl said. "I felt bad for him last night. That was kind of a yucky moment.


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