Paul Millsap returned to Atlanta and there was a real, live NBA basketball game at Philips Arena on Friday evening. While the game was largely competitive, it did not end well for the hometown Atlanta Hawks, as the visiting Denver Nuggets prevailed to extend Atlanta’s losing streak to five games by a final score of 105-100.
After widespread struggles offensively, the Hawks began the night knocking down shots from the perimeter. In fact, Atlanta connected on four of five threes in the opening minutes but, in the same breath, that was only good for a one-point advantage. For the full quarter, the Hawks made 5 of 8 from beyond the arc but, thanks to some defensive issues, the home team trailed by a three-point margin.
The impressive offensive performance continued in the second quarter, as the Hawks put up 29 points on efficient shooting. Taurean Prince led the way with 10 points in the first half and, while the Nuggets held a one-point edge at the break, there several encouraging signs.
One, for instance, was a highlight jam from Dewayne Dedmon that was quickly followed by a tremendous blocked shot on the other end.
The offensive mojo did not continue after the break, however, as the Hawks scuffled to just 19 points on 8 of 23 shooting in the third quarter. Shot selection was not necessarily brutal but regression hit Atlanta hard and, while the defense maintained some level of continuity, the home team slipped into a four-point deficit with 12 minutes remaining.
The Hawks would climb back into the mix with an 8-2 run out of a timeout midway through the period but, following that spurt, Denver silenced Atlanta with six straight to establish order. From there, the Hawks would mount a challenge late, as Dennis Schröder picked up a steal and layup to cut the margin to only three with less than 90 seconds remaining.
On the other end, though, Nikola Jokic converted a jumper to push the visitor’s lead back to five and an empty trip from the Hawks effectively ended the threat. It was academic at that point on the way to a 105-100 final.
On a night when the Hawks connected on 14 of 33 three-point attempts, it was actually the defense that failed to hold up its end of the bargain. Offensively, Atlanta wasn’t dominant in the slightest (105.1 points per 100 possessions) but, despite holding the Nuggets to only 4 of 20 from beyond the three-point arc, Denver managed to score efficiently (110.4 points per 100) and that was the undoing of the host squad.
The Hawks are back in action on Sunday afternoon when the team hosts Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Stay tuned.