The second best team in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets (54-28), will meet the seventh seed New Orleans Hornets (49-33) in the first round of the NBA playoffs. In the four-game season series the teams split with the Nuggets, taking the last meeting, which was played on March 25, 101-88. Denver went 8-2 in their last 10 games, and the Hornets were 4-6 over their final 10.
Denver’s PF/PA differential stands at plus-3.4 as they’ve scored an average of 104.3 PPG and allowed 100.9 PPG. Those 100.9 points allowed per game, which ties them with Utah, is the most allowed by any post-season club in the West. New Orleans is one of the better defensive teams in the playoffs, allowing 94.3 PPG. But their 95.8 points scored per contest is the second lowest of all playoff clubs with only the Pistons putting in less. New Orleans’ PF/PA differential stands at plus-1.5.
The Denver frontcourt is powerful. Small forward Carmelo Anthony leads all scorers with 22.8 point per game. He’s grabbed 6.8 RPG and made 1.14 SPG. Center Nene Hilario is a solid defender, making 1.31 blocks and 1.23 steals per contest. His 7.8 rebounds per game tops all on the team. At the power position, Kenyon Martin offers 11.6 PPG and 6.0 RPG. Point guard Chanucey Billups, who was acquired in a midseason trade with Detroit for Allen Iverson, has been a welcome addition. Billups has dished off an average of 6.4 APG while scoring 17.9 PPG. Shooting guard J.R. Smith, who’s averaged 15.2 PPG, is good from the three-point arc 40% of the time and from the field on 45% of his tries. On April 13, he put 45 points on the scoreboard.
Point guard Chris Paul continues to be the go-to guy for the Hornets. On both ends of the court, he is a gutsy, tenacious presence, averaging 22.8 PPG, 11 APG and 2.8 SPG. He hits 50% of his tries from the field and 87% from the charity stripe. He’s good on 36% of his threes. Rasual Butler, at shooting guard, coverts 39% of his threes and 43% of his shots from the field. He’s good for 11.2 PPG. Power forward David West is the other major point producer on the Hornets, averaging 21.0 PPG. He’s also averaged 8.5 RPG. Center Tyson Chandler, who is newly returned after missing a month, can be an important force. Chandler has led the club in rebounds with 8.7 per game. He’s averaged 1.2 BPG and 8.8 PPG.
The Hornets are primarily a one-man team, relying on superstar Chris Paul to do it all. Paul has been used a lot in the regular season and has been fatigued. It will be tough for him to carry the Hornets through the post-season. The Nuggets are a solid and deep team with a slew of guys who can score. These teams have matched up well in the regular season but a seven-game series favors Denver. The Nuggets will take this round in six games.