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News » Nuggets capture first playoff series since 1994

Nuggets capture first playoff series since 1994

Nuggets capture first playoff series since 1994
DENVER (AP) - Escaping the first round of the playoffs is new territory for Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets.

For Chauncey Billups, though, this is old hat.

He's used to leading teams to much greater heights.

With Billups leading the way and Anthony scoring a career playoff-high 34 points, the Nuggets captured their first playoff series since 1994 with a 107-86 win over the New Orleans Hornets in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

Up next is the Dallas Mavericks, who dispatched the San Antonio Spurs in five games. The second-round series begins Sunday at the Pepsi Center.

The Mavericks will face a team that swept them in the regular season and has a newfound swagger, the result of a weighty burden being lifted.

Even Billups, impervious to pressure, was feeling the Nuggets' angst in trying to end a string of five straight first-round exits.

"It's crazy, that monkey is big on everybody's shoulders around here," said Billups, who led the Detroit Pistons to six straight Eastern Conference finals before joining the Nuggets in the Allen Iverson trade in November. "It's good to get that off, even though I haven't lost in the first round in a long time. Being around here all year, man, it's like everybody's putting all the emphasis on the first round. I shoot higher than that."

It was a momentous night for Anthony, who's had a history of flaming out in the first round with the Nuggets.

He made sure it didn't happen again, averaging 24 points in the series as he shot a blistering 47 percent from the field.

Anthony was at his best in the series clincher.

After knocking down a 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter, Anthony turned toward the camera and screamed, "This is my house."

"It is my house," Anthony said, laughing. "But Chauncey moved in with me."

The house is big enough for the hometown kid, who attended the University of Colorado in nearby Boulder after leading Denver's George Washington High School to two state titles.

Billups, an obvious fan favorite, was clutch all series as the Hornets struggled to stop him.

"Chauncey is the best thing that happened to Denver," Hornets All-Star point guard Chris Paul said. "The mind-set that he's given this team right now is something that will fuel them in the next round."

Nuggets coach George Karl couldn't agree more. He likes the way his team is buzzing along to Billups' beat, never dreaming they'd be this cohesive.

"I thought we were going to be a good team this year. I never thought we could be this good," Karl said.

With confetti flying around the arena after the final horn, the Nuggets lingered on the court for a few minutes to celebrate with the capacity crowd.

Chris Andersen flung his headband into the stands on the way out, as did J.R. Smith. Kenyon Martin was even more gracious, surrendering his shoes and walking to the dressing room in his stocking feet.

"That's just the first step," Billups said. "Our confidence is very high right now ... But (Dallas) is a lot different. They're probably one of the hotter teams in the NBA right now."

The Hornets, meanwhile, were a banged-up bunch.

Paul was hobbled by a bum knee all series while Tyson Chandler tried to grit out an ankle injury, only to succumb and sit on the bench in Game 5.

Still, New Orleans played with pride and passion on Wednesday night and made the Nuggets nervous after a 58-point blowout loss in Game 4 that matched the NBA record. The game was tied at 62 midway through the third period before Denver went on a 24-4 run to seal it.

David West led the Hornets with 24 points and Paul finished with 12 points and 10 assists.

"We are not a 20-plus point better team than they are," said Karl. "They are much better than that."

That is, when fully healthy.

"The biggest thing is just wishing that we were all healthy, because I know we're a much better basketball team than we showed in this series," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "But I don't take anything away from Denver.

"And Chauncey, when he got over here, I knew that would be a difference for them. He has that championship pedigree."

It's definitely rubbing off.

Hawks 106, Heat 91

At Atlanta, the Hawks moved closer to reaching the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time in a decade, taking a 3-2 lead in the series with the Heat.

Joe Johnson had his best game of the postseason with 25 points, and the Hawks took control during a decisive second quarter that pushed them to a 63-40 halftime lead. Flip Murray added 23 points.

Dwyane Wade had 29 points for the Heat, but banged his head on the court in the first half and didn't really get going until the game was already decided. Wade didn't get much help from his teammates. Michael Beasley had 18 points and Jermaine O'Neal 14.

Josh Smith dunked his way to 20 points for the Hawks and even hit a rare 3-pointer. The Hawks also pounded the boards, outrebounding the Heat 37-29.

Game 6 is Friday night in Miami.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 30, 2009


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