- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

DENVER (AP) - Dahntay Jones’ in-your-face defensive style appears to be getting on the nerves of the New Orleans Hornets.

Still stinging over their lopsided loss to the Nuggets in Game 1, Hornets coach Byron Scott suggested Jones’ heavy contact on All-Star Chris Paul crossed the line.

“I can appreciate anybody that plays hard, but when you get to the point where you’re being a little dirty, that’s the thing that kind of aggravates me,” Scott said Tuesday. “Being that I played in this league, I know how tough that is. But when you get to the point where you’re being a little dirty then I don’t appreciate that _ and I don’t respect it.”

Getting under the skin of the Hornets is all part of the plan for the Nuggets, who were determined to set an aggressive defensive tone for the series.

So far, they’ve succeeded in shutting down and bothering the Hornets.

“I’m not trying to be annoying, I’m just trying to put pressure on (Paul) and play hard,” said Jones, whose team heads into Game 2 on Wednesday night with a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. “People don’t like it when you play hard, people don’t like it when you’re physical.”

That approach served the Nuggets’ Kenyon Martin and Nene well as Martin stymied David West and Nene kept Tyson Chandler in check. Also mixing it up in the lane was Chris Andersen, the “Birdman” swooping in and blocking four shots.

New Orleans should expect more of the same.

“The series is going to be a tough, long, long series and being physical is something that we’ve got to pride ourselves on,” Chauncey Billups said.

Overlooked in Billups’ 36-point scoring spree Sunday night was the aggressive nature of the Nuggets’ defense, the team adopting the attitude that no basket for New Orleans would come easy.

“I’m not going out to foul nobody. I’m going out to play basketball,” Martin said. “But if the situation calls for it, I’m not going to give them a layup.”

The Hornets weren’t exactly thrilled with some of Denver’s tactics, taking particular exception to the way Jones was checking and pushing around Paul.

“I was looking at the tape, there were some cheap shots that I thought he took in there,” Scott said.

Martin saw things a little differently on his copy of the video.

“Things happen when you play hard,” Martin said.

Then again, Martin wouldn’t want Jones covering him, either.

“He’d probably get up under my skin,” Martin said. “That’s what we need. That’s what you want.”

Jones certainly bothered Scott, who lauded Martin’s work on West but wouldn’t even acknowledge Jones’ efforts on Paul.

“I don’t give him no credit, not really,” Scott said.

Jones doesn’t understand the Hornets’ irritation. His job is to limit Paul’s production _ by any means necessary within the rules.

“What Byron was talking about I don’t know,” Jones said. “It’s the playoffs, it gets more physical on both ends.”

Paul is attempting to stay above the fray and keep his emotions in check, especially on the court.

“I’m smart enough to realize if we both get ejected, or something like that, he’s done his job,” said Paul, who finished with 21 points on 7-of-19 shooting. “I’m more focused about what we’re doing rather than what he’s doing.”

Although the Nuggets’ swarming defensive disrupted the Hornets’ pick-and-roll offense Sunday, Paul said it was more about them missing open looks than anything the Nuggets did. The team shot just 37 percent from the field, and allowed the Nuggets to blow the game open with a 21-0 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters.

“We’re going to have to be aggressive, try to get to the line and get some easy baskets,” Paul said.

That involves making West more of a factor, which concerns Karl.

“An All-Star has a way of bouncing back,” Karl said. “They will see some things on video that they think they can exploit. The chess game has just begun.”

The Nuggets’ move will be to check, and check hard.

“We’re going to bring the same intensity and play as hard,” Jones said. “Hopefully it will turn out the same way.”

Not that Denver’s necessarily relying on another offensive outburst from Billups.

“We got one of our best players getting hot,” Karl said. “How we win the four games are probably going to have different personalities, other than consistently being good defensively.”

The Nuggets wouldn’t mind seeing Anthony bounce back after being limited to just 13 points.

“I think they’re trying to find some answers for our defense,” Karl said. “We’re trying to find some answers to give ‘Melo more opportunities … We’re not going to overreact.”

Anthony certainly won’t. Watching from the bench in fourth quarter with the game sewn up does have its appeal.

“I’m in a great state right now _ focused,” Anthony said. “If I score 13 and we win by 30, I’ll take that.”

For confidence’s sake, though, he wouldn’t mind burying a couple of shots early in Game 2.

“My goal is not to come into a game and miss shots,” he said, smiling. “Of course I want to make shots. It makes it easier for me, it makes it easier for everyone on my team.”

However, he’s realizing he doesn’t have to carry the Nuggets on his shoulders alone. The offensive load can be spread around now.

“To have someone like Chauncey to step up, I’ll take that on any given night,” he said.

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