Members of the Hornets coaching staff and players watched in dismay as the Denver Nuggets manhandled New Orleans on Monday night. ((Layne Murdoch/Getty Images))

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.

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."

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 per cent 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.

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 per cent in the first quarter, taking a 36-15 lead on Jones' three-pointer.