NBA: Nuggets close out Hornets at home
By Arnie Stapleton
DENVER ó With a little help from the hometown kid, Carmelo Anthony is finally moving on.
Behind Anthony’s 34 points and the floor leadership of Chauncey Billups, the Denver native who came home this season and galvanized a city and a team, the Nuggets advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs with a 107-86 win over New Orleans late Wednesday night.
After five straight first-round flameouts, ‘Melo led the Nuggets to their first playoff series win since 1994. They’ll face the Dallas Mavericks in the second round.
Dallas advanced to the Western Conference semifinals by defeating San Antonio in five games. Denver swept the season series with the Mavericks 4-0.
Anthony’s 34 points were a career playoff best. Billups had 13 points and 11 assists, and J.R. Smith scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half to fuel Denver, which needed just five games to go from traditional first-round fodder to a playoff success story.
Despite the final score, the capper wasn’t nearly as easy as Denver’s three other wins, including the 58-point blowout in Game 4.
Playing without Tyson Chandler, the Hornets made the Nuggets sweat. It was tied at 62 midway through the third period before Denver went on a 24-4 run to ice it.
David West led the Hornets with 24 points. Chris Paul had 12 points and 10 assists.