Welcome to our first ever NBA Playoff Blogger Faceoff, where we pit our favorite team-related bloggers against each other to let them tell why the teams they represent will win their first round matchups. We gave them no set format, no style guide – we just told them to do their thing. Check it out and join in the debate in the comments section.
Next up: 2. Denver vs. 7. New Orleans
WHY THE HORNETS WILL WIN
Written by Sarah Tolscer of HornetsHype
Denver fans shouldn’t be offended that the Hornets rejoiced over getting this matchup. The simple fact is that Denver presents a weaker threat than Houston (who just blew out New Orleans last week) or Portland (who are too hot). The Nuggets went 14-3 in their last 17 to cruise to the No. 2 seed, but only went 3-3 during that stretch against teams over .500. Meanwhile, the Hornets’ breakdown in the last month caused them to drop from No. 3 to No. 7. Injury and fatigue have played a large part in limiting the Hornets this year, but this is still a winnable series for them.
The Hornets are on the road, but they played well in Denver this season, winning one and coming back from a 26 points down to take the lead and then lose 105-100. Denver is the playoff team most likely to allow huge runs, which is great because coincidentally the Hornets this year are probably the playoff team most likely to put themselves in a huge hole. The Hornets never actually played Denver with Tyson Chandler in the lineup. If he’s healthy, he will be a factor defensively, although I doubt his ankle will let him get up to his usual height. He’s the Hornets’ wild card. If I were Byron Scott, I’d pull Hilton Armstrong out of the doghouse for this series, because for some reason he was solid against Denver. It will be up to Peja and Posey to cover Melo. Peja is a better defender than people think if he’s got a help man (or if he is the help man) because of his height. Posey is built to stop the bigger athletic wings, unless they can burn him with speed. The Hornets need to have a plan for J.R. Smith, who as I see it is the Nuggets’ X-Factor. He always jacks shots against New Orleans because he wants to “show” Byron Scott. Sometimes this is good, sometimes bad.
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Chris Paul or David West. This series is on them, and they’ve been putting up crazy numbers in the last two weeks. David West hasn’t had amazing numbers against Denver, but most of the games were pre-February, and he’s absolutely become a force since then. Chris Paul is Chris Paul. He’s magical. He’ll do what he does. I guarantee he also knows that all those ESPN writers put Chauncey Billups over him on their MVP ballots.
Other factors: David West and Kenyon Martin will get T-ed up in this series. Multiple times. Both teams are prone to emotional breakdowns, but the Nuggets probably slightly more so. The Hornets’ magic formula is David West + Chris Paul + one outside shooter need to be on. Whether this shooter is Peja Stojakovic (who shot 50% from 3 against Denver this year, but is in a slump right now), Rasual Butler, or James Posey, it’s just crucial that it happens.
WHY THE NUGGETS WILL WIN
By Nick Sclafani of NuggDoctor
As you well know it came down to the last game of the season to see who the Nuggets would play in the first round of the playoffs. I honestly think the Mavs would have been an easier first round match up. I say this because I am scared of one man – Chris Paul. He has the ability to change games and put his whole team on his back.
Paul, being one if not the best point guard in the NBA, will give Chauncey some trouble. The good thing is that Chauncey is the best fit for our team. While Chris Paul is the best at administering Byron Scott’s style of play on court, Billups has helped the whole Denver team buy into George Karl’s system.
Other than the point guard position, we have the upper hand in terms of match ups and personnel. Melo and David West are seen as two of the elite forwards in the West. I give Melo the advantage because it seems that he is peaking at the right time and he has the ability to score in a variety of ways. He is better well rounded offensively than West.
We also have JR Smith and the Birdman. Our supporting cast is much stronger than New Orleans…on top of that we have home court advantage, and we have been rock solid at the Pepsi Center this year.
I see us having a bit of an issue with New Orleans but nothing serious enough to see us losing in the 1st round. I am predicting the Nuggets beat the Hornets in six games…seven is a stretch but six and we move onto the next round.