Hawks Come Up Just Short In Denver

Friday, November 8, 2013
By Robby Kalland

Atlanta Hawks v Denver Nuggets

The Hawks lost in Denver for the seventh straight trip to Mile High, as the Nuggets squeaked out a 109-107 victory for their first win of the season. Al Horford and Paul Millsap continued their strong play combining for 50 points, 19 rebounds, 10 assists, six blocks, and three steals. Millsap’s 29 points led all scorers, and he was the only player on either team to reach double-digit rebounds with 10. Horford narrowly missed his fourth straight double-double with 21 points and nine boards, but had a game-high four blocks.

Hawks vs. Nuggets
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Kyle Korver had a good night as well with 16 points on 60 percent shooting, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. Korver hit a three in the first quarter that pushed his streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer to 78 and tied Dennis Scott for third on the all-time list.

Jeff Teague had another up and down game, but finished with a double-double of his own with 14 points and 11 assists with just three turnovers. Teague had a tough defensive assignment in the speedy Ty Lawson who led the Nuggets with 23 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. Lawson was 9-16 from the field and 3-5 from three and ran Teague off screens all over the court, which Jeff struggled fighting through.

Atlanta Hawks v Denver Nuggets

Lawson’s biggest basket of the night was a three-pointer late in the fourth that gave the Nuggets a five-point lead with 58 seconds to play. Lawson ran to the baseline before cutting hard to the three point line behind a pin-down screen where he put up a wild three that banked in hard off the glass.

The Hawks showed a lot of resiliency staying in the game down the stretch and had the ball with 7.2 seconds to play down 109-107 after Nate Robinson, who had 15 points off the bench, split two free throws. The Hawks got a mismatch in the post off of the inbounds play with Millsap being guarded by Andre Miller, but Millsap’s turnaround 10-footer rimmed out. Horford grabbed the rebound and put up his own 10-foot turnaround which also bounced off the rim as the final buzzer sounded to end the game.

The Hawks have scored 100 points in each of their first five games showing that the guys are grasping Bud’s system and are executing pretty well. The issue on offense has been on finding consistent scoring, especially when the starters are off the floor. All five starters finished in double-figures tonight, but the Hawks bench had just 17 points tonight as a unit.

The entire Hawks’ bench unit shot just 6-for-22 and Cartier Martin had his worst outing as a Hawk with just one point and went 0-for-7 in 23 minutes of play. Martin had three steals defensively, but was unable to have any positive offensive impact, which left the Hawks without many perimeter shooting options when Korver was off the floor.

The bench group was missing rookie point guard Dennis Schröder who was suspended one game by the NBA for hitting DeMarcus Cousins in the groin on Tuesday night in Sacramento. Without Schröder, the Hawks relied on Shelvin Mack to play as the backup for Teague. Mack finished with seven points, four rebounds, and two assists with no turnovers and, after knocking the rust in the first quarter, played pretty well on offense. Like Teague, Mack had some problems keeping up with Lawson and Robinson on the perimeter.

Pero Antic logged 20 minutes in the game, spelling Horford and Millsap, and put up seven points, four rebounds, and two blocks. Antic hit a pair of threes and looked solid on the defensive end in one-on-one situations. While he is a strong man defender on the block, Antic is not a great help defender, which showed when Lawson or Robinson would get loose in the paint. The Nuggets really took advantage of the six-minute stretch where Antic, Martin, and Mike Scott were on the floor together in the first half. The Hawks were -8 in that stretch, and those three were the only players on the Hawks to finish with a negative +/-. Those three have not logged many minutes together and struggled communicating, leading to some easy baskets for the Nuggets.

While the bench struggled, the Hawks as a whole have really had a tough time defending on the perimeter, especially getting out to three-point shooters. Denver went 14-of-25 from the three-point line and had a number of wide-open looks from deep. The backcourt trio of Lawson, Robinson, and Randy Foye had 10 three-pointers between them. The Hawks have had issues defending the three-point line in a few games this season and it will definitely be a point of emphasis for Coach Bud in the coming weeks.

The loss drops the Hawks back to 2-3 on the season as they head back to Atlanta to play the Magic on Saturday night. The Hawks can look at positives, like the team’s offensive play and the play of Horford and Millsap, as things to build on, while working to fix the negatives, like the bench struggles and the overall team’s perimeter defense.

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Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

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