NEW ORLEANS " George Karl scanned two decades of NBA coaching memories and failed to find an instance when one of his teams played as well, from start to finish, as his Denver Nuggets did in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against New Orleans.
But then, no one has seen a playoff whipping as bad as the Nuggets put on the Hornets in more than half a century.
Carmelo Anthony scored all of his 26 points in the first three quarters, and Denver thoroughly dismantled New Orleans 121-63 on Monday night to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
"Every coach talks about playing a playoff game, every possession having value, every possession having intensity to it," Karl began. "I thought my team, probably in my career, I've never seen a team probably do that on every possession " do what they were supposed to do and play the game the right way " as much as they did tonight."
The New Orleans Arena was mostly empty by the end of the third quarter, when Denver led 89-50 on its way to matching the most lopsided victory in NBA playoff history. The Minneapolis Lakers beat the St. Louis Hawks 133-75 in 1956.
Looking twice as quick as New Orleans on both ends of the court, the Nuggets stifled Hornets All-Star Chris Paul, whose four points and six assists amounted to one of the worst games of his career.
The Nuggets can close out the series at home in Game 5 on Wednesday night. They will if they play as well as they did in Game 4, when they led by 20 early in the second quarter and by a lot more most of the second half.
It was the first time Paul, who did not play in the fourth quarter, scored fewer than 14 points in a playoff game.
"I'm pretty sure Chris Paul is not 100 percent," Karl said. "He doesn't have that slippery quickness he usually has."
Paul, who played 46 minutes and fell hard a few times in the Hornets' Game 3 win, insisted he was fine, "Other than that whooping we just took."
"Every time we tried something, they countered," Paul said. "We didn't play well and they executed their game plan to perfection. ... Understand that while it was embarrassing and they beat us pretty bad, it still was only one game."
However, while New Orleans' only win in the series was by two points, Denver's three wins have all been by double digits, including both games played in Denver.
In Game 4, Denver held New Orleans to only 31.5 percent shooting and forced the Hornets into a franchise playoff-high 27 turnovers, which led to 41 Nuggets points.
The Hornets also recorded playoff lows in points, field goals made (17), field goals attempted (54), assists (10) and second-half points (24). Denver's 121 points set a Hornets opponent playoff high.
"I don't think I've ever had a team play defense like that," Karl said. "Defensively, when you play this well, offense just happens."
Denver shot 57 percent (33-of-58) through the first three quarters, when Chauncey Billups scored all of his 17 points. Nene added 13 points and Dahntay Jones 12.
David West was the Hornets' high scorer with 14 points, while James Posey had 12.
All the starters on both teams were done when the anticlimactic final period began.
Denver dominated early for the second straight game and this time never let up. After West scored the game's opening points, Kenyon Martin dunked on the other end, igniting a 27-6 run. Denver shot 70 percent in the first quarter, taking a 36-15 lead on Jones' 3-pointer.
Denver's torrid shooting continued into the second quarter, with Anthony scoring on acrobatic drives and quick pull-up jumpers. Chris Andersen added a dunk and even a 15-foot fade, putting the Nuggets up 46-22.
New Orleans' frustration began to bubble over. Rasual Butler was called for a technical for pushing Anthony Carter after Carter fouled him on a fast break. The infuriated home crowd began to disparage the officials in unison while Anthony's technical free throw made it 49-24.
The Hornets went without a field goal for a span of 7:48 in the second quarter, scoring only on free throws until Butler's baseline jumper made it 61-39 at halftime.
Nene's inside basket as he was fouled early in the third quarter sparked an 11-0 run that included back-to-back 3s by Anthony and Billups. Martin's jumper made it 71-41 with 9:16 left in the period.
The margin only widened from there, even to the surprise of the Nuggets.
"I wouldn't have thought that we would win by 58 points," Anthony said. "I never thought anyone could win by 58 points in the playoffs."
Notes: The Hornets' previous worst playoff loss was by 32 points (96-64) to Atlanta in 1998, when the team was still in Charlotte. ... Denver's previous largest playoff victory margin was 30 (141-111) over San Antonio in 1985. ... Double technicals were called twice in the first half, first on Paul and Martin and later on Posey and Anthony.