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Hawks hold off hard-charging Nuggets in 117-106 victory

Atlanta nearly surrendered what would’ve been a brutal loss, but the end result was a positive one.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks were unceremoniously flattened on Monday evening and, less than 48 hours later, the team had the opportunity to break even with a win over the Denver Nuggets. After a lights-out first half, it was more of a struggle than it needed to be but, in the end, the Hawks were able to secure a 117-106 victory.

While the Hawks have battled against slow starts in the recent past, that was not a problem on Wednesday. The home team came out firing, converting their first four attempts from beyond the three-point arc and shooting a blazing 65 percent from the floor on the to a 27-19 advantage.

That type of dominant showing continued, as the Hawks finished with 39 points in the first quarter, marking the highest-scoring opening period of the season. Atlanta scored at a clip of 1.65 points per possession (translation: out of this world) and that was good enough to build a strong lead.

The second quarter was largely more of the same, as the Hawks finished the half with 72 first-half points. That mark was the highest of any half this season (sensing a trend?) and Atlanta shot 55 percent from the floor and 47 percent from three. Dennis Schröder was the individual star with 18 points and six assists before halftime, but it was a collective onslaught that overcame a somewhat pedestrian defensive effort to build a 17-point lead.

After the half, the defensive issues continued, though, and the Nuggets were able to hang around. Atlanta stretched its lead to 20 in the early part of the third quarter, but Denver countered with an 18-9 run that slashed the margin to double figures. The Hawks were able to quell the momentum at that juncture, but the advantage rested at just 11 points as the fourth quarter arrived, based largely on the fact that the Nuggets were able to score (quite) easily.

Atlanta’s offense then stalled a bit to begin the fourth quarter, scoring only nine points in the first six-plus minutes of game action. That, combined with six straight points from the Nuggets, put the margin in serious peril at 107-101.

While there were flashes of the Hawks threatening to put the game away, that did not transpire. The Nuggets came within four points after a Gary Harris bucket with 2:56 on the clock and, after a timeout, Denver had an opportunity to pull closer before coming up empty on an extended possession.

From there, Paul Millsap took control with a three-point play to provide breathing room with 1:47 on the clock and Dennis Schröder then virtually salted the game away with a pair of free throws on the following possession. That was enough to put the Nuggets away in what became an 11-point victory for Atlanta.

Schröder (24 points, 10 assists) and Millsap (23 points, six rebounds, five assists) led the way for the Hawks, with seven players (including Mike Muscala and DeAndre Bembry) reaching double-figures in scoring. On the whole, it was a very strong offensive performance from the home team while the defense was not ideal, but it was enough to preserve a much-needed home win before flying to Sacramento on Friday to begin a three-game pre-break road trip.

Stay tuned.