Nuggets put Billups back on Williams

DENVER (AP) — The Denver Nuggets will have Chauncey Billups guard Deron Williams from the start of Game 5 against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. Williams said after shootaround that he considers himself the best point guard in the NBA right now, and he won’t get any argument from the Nuggets. Williams has joined Oscar Robertson (1965), Kevin Johnson (1989) and Magic Johnson (1990) as the only players in NBA history to register at least 20 points and 10 or more assists in each of the first four games of a playoff series. So, the Nuggets are turning to Billups, who has 137 games of playoff experience and was on one of the eight teams that have overcome 3-1 playoff deficits (Detroit over Orlando in 2003), in hopes he can do a better job of guarding Williams than Aaron Afflalo has. “We just want to switch it up and have him on the point guard and have Afflalo defending the pin-downs on the weak side,” Nuggets acting coach Adrian Dantley said. “And Ty (Lawson) will come in and play him some, too.” More than anything, the Nuggets wanted to throw a different look at Williams, who averaged 26.7 points and a dozen assists in the first four games of the series. Billups noted he’s more physical than Afflalo and said he hoped the officials “allow us to play like that.” The officials have blown plenty of whistles in this series and that’s played into the Jazz’s hands more so than the Nuggets, who rely on their superior speed and athleticism on offense for quick baskets and not deliberate sets in the halfcourt like Utah does. Williams couldn’t think of how his game might be affected by Billups guarding him instead of Afflalo. “It doesn’t” change anything, he said. “They both try to be physical with me. Their team goal is to try to trap me and get the ball out of my hands. So, it doesn’t change what I’m going to do.” Williams said his numbers are up from the regular season because he’s trying to pick up the slack with Andrei Kirilenko (calf) and Mehmet Okur (ruptured Achilles’ tendon) sidelined. Jazz forward Carlos Boozer said Williams has stepped up his game this season and again in the playoffs and is now “hands-down” the best point guard in the NBA. Billups concurred and so did Williams, himself. “I feel I was the best point guard in the league for a while,” he said. At shootaround, Kirilenko shot baskets and did limited work on the court for the third straight day but said he still hasn’t run full-speed to test his strained left calf. He said he’s feeling better and hopes to be back soon but doubts he could return for a possible Game 6 on Friday night. Kirilenko said his teammates’ solid play this series “definitely lifts my spirits,” and in addition to the backup big men who are playing so well, he was especially impressed by Williams. “He’s really the engine of our team,” Kirilenko said. “The last three, four games, he’s playing MVP-style basketball.”

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