Initial Reaction: Nuggets 100, Hawks 90

Foul.

Quick Reaction: Stop me if you've heard this one before: Too many missed jump shots.

Summary:

The Atlanta Hawks actually did pretty well in this game for a while, until the weight of a few factors finally led to their demise at the hands of the Denver Nuggets Monday night:

1. The last of a long road trip.

(7) games, haven't played at home since February 12. A 3-4 road trip doesn't sing "championship" but it doesn't blurp "wait 'til next year" either.

2. Back to back, the hard way.

Screw the schedule maker who decided this would be okay, having the Hawks play in Portland the night before at 1030pm EST, lose an hour in travel, then play at the mile high heights of Denver at 900pm EST.

3. No Kirk Hinrich.

Rick Sund better find more fingers to cross, because the guy he traded a couple of draft picks and rotation players for missed this game due to a calf injury he's been sporting already this season. Add in point #2 above and the Hawks needed 16+ minutes from Damien Wilkins tonight. 

4. No second half with Josh Smith.

I only wish he'd been thrown out, then I wouldn't have to think about the Hawks playing extended time without Smoove. Instead, he banged knees with Arron Afflalo in the first half, came back, went into halftime, and then was declared done. 

5. A pretty solid, aggressive host team in Denver.

The Nuggets shooting for the game? By quarter, it was 10-22, 10-20, 10-20, 10-20. They blistered the Hawks with a balanced attack inside and outside with solid efforts from Kenyon Martin (6-11), Nene (6-13), Wilson Chandler (6-14), Ty Lawson/Raymond Felton (10-17), and known Hawk Hater, J.R. Smith (6-10).

They not only outshot the Hawks, but obliterated them in the paint, 50-28, which brings us to our final factor.

6. Jump shots, nothing but jump shots.

What Joe Johnson is doing well: Grinding inside against smaller matchups and finishing around the basket.

What Joe Johnson is not doing well: Shooting 3-pointers.

Joe (0-4) wasn't the only one. Jamal Crawford was 2-8, and Marvin Williams was 0-3. As a team, the Hawks were 2-18 from out there.

Right from the beginning, it was obvious the Hawks were more than willing to trade jump shots with the Nuggets. As they were going down early, all was well. But as they started to misfire, and then losing Smith in the second half, the Nuggets began to attack, smelling the win in the waters. 

The final shooting tally was 48 percent for Denver and 41 percent for the Hawks. Only the Hawks 10 offensive rebounds could keep the Hawks close, until an unsavory 6-19 final quarter sealed the Hawks fate.

Also:

For a defensive specialist, Wilkins reaches an awful lot. He committed (4) fouls in his 16+ minutes and was a liability again offensively. When he and Jeff Teague were on the floor together, the Nuggets basically played 5 on 3 and dared those two to make them pay. They could not.

The loss wasted the effort of Al Horford, who shot extremely well, even though it's clear the league is pushing him out further and further. Horford was 10-15 with 21 points,16 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Both Teague and Zaza Pachulia had the opportunity to play extended minutes due to Hinrich and Smith's injuries, but neither capatilized. Teague played alright in his 34+ minutes, getting 7 points and 6 assists, but was never assertive offensively and showed indecisiveness running the team.

Zaza was alright rebounding (7 in 21 minutes), but was a liability offensively (detecting a trend from the bench?). I am always surprised when the Hawks run a play that calls for Horford to stand outside the three point line while Zaza gets the ball in the high post. There were a couple of occasions where Zaza mishandled the play and left me wondering "What Would Horford Do?". This included the turnover/foul combination late in the game which led to an ill-timed (aren't they all, though?) technical foul.

Silver Lining:

The Hawks go back home, taking on the "UnbeataBulls" Wednesday Night in the Highlight Factory. Make some noise, ATL!

It should be noted that I will likely be at the game, waiting to ask all the tough questions, such as what's Kirk Hinrich's shoe size and who makes those goggles he wears all the time---and if he knows, I'll ask why they can't make a pair he doesn't feel compelled to fidget with for 48 minutes?

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