By Ben York
Ben York is a freelance basketball columnist who also writes for Fanster.com, TalkHoops.net, The Hoop Doctors and is a contributor to NBATipoff.com
Denver beat the Hornets in almost every aspect of game 1 in their series. They out-rebounded, out-hustled, out-coached, and flat outplayed New Orleans. So why am I not hopping on their bandwagon?
The Hornets are the most resilient team in the league.
New Orleans has rarely played with their entire starting unit together on the court this season; yet, they still managed to win 49 games. Though Chris Paul has a lot to do with this, another reason they have been successful despite injuries is because of how hard Byron Scott has the entire team playing. The Hornets don't necessarily go very deep; Sean Marks is getting rotation minutes for crying out loud. However, the players that do get consistent minutes play their butts off every single night, including their motor and leader Chris Paul.
The Nuggets haven't exactly been known around the league as being a physical team, but the addition of Chauncey Billups has added another dimension of toughness. Dahntay Jones is another player who has seemingly stepped up his defense to match the Hornets intensity while guarding Chris Paul. Said Paul in this preview,“I’m smart enough to realize if we both get ejected, or something like that, he’s done his job. I’m more focused about what we’re doing rather than what he’s doing.” In order for a team to be resilient, they have to be focused on what they are doing, not what their opponents are doing; and the Hornets certainly are.
This type of physical play has faced the Hornets and Paul all year, and they've responded successfully each time. Paul had an okay game (for his standards) in game 1 (21 points, 11 assists) but he'll need to step it up even further to get a win in Denver tonight. Again, resiliency has been the crutch that New Orleans has been able to rely on when faced with challenges (as they've been all year long).
Now, with the Hornets as healthy as they've been all year, look for them to get their groove back and really take it to Denver tonight and in games 3&4 in New Orleans. I guarantee Billups won't hit 8 three's on a consistent basis, and Chris Paul will respond to adversity with a win.