Nuggets advance to second round for first time since 1994

The Sports Network

4/30/2009 2:24:09 AM

Denver, CO (Sports Network) - Carmelo Anthony finished with 34 points, as Denver pulled away for a 107-86 win over New Orleans, wrapping up the Nuggets' first playoff series triumph in 15 years.

With the Game 5 victory, Denver won this Western Conference quarterfinal set, 4-1. The second-seeded Nuggets will face Dallas, which downed San Antonio in five games, in the West semifinals.

Denver won the series in mostly dominating fashion, having taken each of its victories by double digits -- including a 121-63 shellacking in Game 4 that matched the largest margin of defeat in NBA playoff history.

Wednesday's victory gave the Nuggets their first playoff series win since 1994, when they defeated Seattle in the West quarters. They had also lost in the first round in five consecutive years before breaking through this postseason.

J.R. Smith helped seal the series by coming off the bench to score 20 points, making five three-pointers. Kenyon Martin added 15 points and seven rebounds for Denver, while Chauncey Billups ended with 13 points, 11 assists and five boards.

"Our confidence is very high right now," Billups said. "We're feeling really good about how we're playing, about the unselfishness of the team and how we're locked in on defensive coverages and stuff. We're feeling really good."

David West had 24 points and nine rebounds to pace seventh-seeded New Orleans, which shot 38.2 percent on the way to the loss. Chris Paul added 12 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Hornets, while James Posey scored 18 points off the bench.

"They did an outstanding job all series knowing what we wanted to do," Paul said. "I don't think anybody has trapped the ball screens and different things like that as well as they did this series."

The game was tied at halftime and still knotted halfway through the quarter, after New Orleans scored five consecutive points to make it a 62-62 contest.

However, the Nuggets took control with an 18-4 run to end the quarter. Smith drilled back-to-back threes in the stretch, while Anthony scored the final seven Nuggets points of the stretch, as they took an 80-66 lead to the fourth.

Denver then continued the run with six points to start the final stanza. Billups had the final two on a pair of foul shots to push the Nuggets' lead to 20.

Denver largely cruised from there, using each shot as a celebration of sorts -- particularly those of Smith, who was given space to drill threes. He sank one midway through the fourth for a 99-75 advantage, firing up the crowd and the Nuggets bench in the process, and Denver cruised to the finish from there.

Two West free throws gave the Hornets a 27-24 edge after one quarter, and Martin's three-pointer at the end of the half made it a 49-49 game at the break.

Game Notes

Denver shot 51.4 percent, including a 10-for-23 mark from three-point range...The Hornets sank just three of 20 three-point attempts...Each team had 15 turnovers...Martin blocked three shots...Chris Andersen had nine points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Nuggets...Denver's Nene added 10 points and seven boards in the win...Peja Stojakovic scored 12 points for New Orleans.