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Preview: Hawks continue difficult road journey in Denver

Another tough one, at least on paper.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks put together a strong 48-minute effort on Tuesday evening, only to fall to Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors. While the team did beat expectations (at least according to Las Vegas), it was Atlanta’s fifth consecutive loss and, on Thursday night, the Hawks face another very difficult challenge in the form of a road game against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.

As previously noted in this space, the Hawks are in the midst of a brutal portion of their schedule and Thursday definitely presents a demanding situation. The Nuggets are favored by double-figures in Las Vegas and, in addition to Denver’s clear talent advantage and the unfriendly venue (for Atlanta) in the Pepsi Center, the Hawks could be facing a dire situation in the frontcourt.

Dewayne Dedmon (personal reasons) will miss his third consecutive game and, while John Collins was officially upgraded to doubtful for the first time this season, the presence of that distinction makes it unlikely that the second-year big man will appear. Beyond that, starting center Alex Len is officially listed as questionable with an ankle sprain and, if he is unable to play, the Hawks will be forced to turn to a rotation of Miles Plumlee, Omari Spellman, Alex Poythress and Vince Carter at the big man positions.

On any night, that wouldn’t be an ideal setup, but it would be even more difficult here when facing Jokic, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee. Obviously, Jokic is an All-Star caliber player and, while he can be taken advantage of defensively, he is an offensive force, with big-time size, elite passing vision and the ability to score from multiple zones. In addition, Millsap isn’t quite the same force that he was at peak, All-Star levels but he remains a tremendous defensive player and the “other” Plumlee serves as a competent and versatile backup big.

Elsewhere, there is a headline-worthy match-up between Trae Young and Jamal Murray that will definitely be worth monitoring. Denver is very talented on the perimeter, with Gary Harris alongside Murray, and that could present some defensive issues for the Hawks, as Kent Bazemore is only available to shadow one of the two high-level guards. In addition, Denver has been deploying a (very) big lineup with Juancho Hernangomez as the de facto small forward, leaving some positional question marks on the table for Atlanta.

The Nuggets have lost four straight games and, candidly, aren’t playing their best basketball right now. Still, this is an uphill climb for the visiting team and, after a pair of hard-fought losses, it will be interesting to see how the Hawks respond in the altitude of Colorado.

Stay tuned throughout the day for all the latest.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Thursday, Nov. 15, 9:00 pm ET

Location: Pepsi Center

TV: Fox Sports Southeast

Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network

Streaming: Fox Sports Go; NBA TV (out of market); NBA League Pass (out of market)