DENVER (AP) – Chauncey Billups can't recall any of his other 117 playoff performances being as big as his 36-point outburst in front of his homies.
"It was definitely one of my best games in the playoffs," Billups said Monday after reviewing film of his stirring play in Denver's 113-84 whipping of New Orleans in Game 1 of their playoff series Sunday night.
His first playoff game in his hometown included a career-high eight 3-pointers, one shy of the NBA playoff record, eight assists and no turnovers, plus a courtside view of the final 8 minutes of the unexpected blowout he ignited.
"More importantly just winning is everything," Billups said. "When you're going to have a special night like that, it's a great time for me to have that. But it was definitely one of my best performances."
Billups' big game helped Denver snap an eight-game postseason losing streak, halt a five-game playoff skid at home and take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series with the Hornets.
"For me to have a chance to be playing in the playoffs, on a really good team, at home, in front of all my family and all my fans, it was special," Billups said. "It's a feeling you have when you're playing at home that a lot of people never get to experience. I'm grateful for that."
Billups hadn't scored this many points since joining the Nuggets a week into the season and transforming them into a legitimate threat after so many years of fits and starts and first-round flops.
"I was hoping that he would get 15 of them if we needed them," said Rex Chapman, the Nuggets' vice president of player personnel and one of three players to have made nine 3-pointers in a playoff game, along with Ray Allen and Vince Carter.
"There's a couple of big differences between the ones I it and the ones Chauncey hit," Chapman said. "It took me 17 attempts to get nine and about 47 minutes of playing time. It took him nine shots to get eight.
"And I was a bum, and he's not."
Chapman, who hit his nine 3s for Phoenix in an upset of Seattle in the 1997 playoffs, said he wasn't secretly thankful when Billups came out of the game — quite the opposite.
"I wish he would have gotten a few more," Chapman said. "All these years, those nine sitting there are going to remind people of the 17 shots that I took. I'm stuck with that."
Billups was so sensational it didn't matter that Carmelo Anthony scored just 13 points.
"I was laughing and joking with the guys on the bench, saying in the past if I scored 13 points, we'd probably be losing by 20 or 25 points," Anthony said. "Now I can score 13 points and not have to play in the fourth quarter and be up 30. That's a great feeling."
He credited Billups, the reluctant hero.
"It wasn't my shots or 'Melo's plays, our defense won this game," Billups insisted. "People are going to talk about how I hit shots and hit 3s and the guys kind of rallied around me. But that was all secondary. Our defense was really what won this game and us being locked in to the concepts that we laid down the last three days of preparation."
Defense wins championships. Offense wins accolades.
"It was a pretty good show, man," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "That was a big-time show in playoff basketball."
"Unreal," marveled Hornets All-Star spark plug Chris Paul.
Some of Billups' 3s came on pull-ups in transition, others from way behind the arc. Billups said it was probably just a one-night wonder.
Billups may not think that he can repeat his 3-point barrage, but Hornets coach Byron Scott is trying everything he can think of to make sure Billups doesn't get the chance, while also trying to duplicate the defensive effort on Anthony.
Anthony, who averaged 22.8 points in the regular season, was just 4-for-12 from the floor.
"We'll assume he's going to shoot more, that he will get more attempts," Scott said. "But our defense won't change a whole lot against him. We'll try to be aggressive as far as getting the ball out of his hands and make another guy beat us — we just don't want the other guy to be Chauncey."
Peja Stojakovic said there's not much that can be done when a player gets into that kind of zone.
"Chauncey made some tough shots," Stojakovic said. "Most of his shots were shots you would like for him to take. When you get into a zone like he was and they start making them, it's tough to guard. There is little you can do."
Billups got going against Rasual Butler and Scott said he'll change things up Wednesday night in Game 2.
"The change would be to pick him up a lot earlier. We let him walk into about three or four jump shots. I know they were three or four feet behind the 3-point line, but he has that capability," Scott said. "So we have to pick him at the halfcourt mark instead of picking him up at the 3-point line because he's still too dangerous."
Scott suggested Paul will get more minutes guarding Billups in Game 2.
"I think the thing is really to put C.P. on him and get a quicker guy on him," Scott said. "The biggest thing though, is to pick him up early."
Before Billups picks them apart again.