After what felt like a lengthy break in the aftermath of a fourth consecutive loss, the Atlanta Hawks took on the Denver Nuggets at State Farm Arena on Saturday. While much of the sporting attention of the city was next door, the Hawks put together a strong showing (at least after the first quarter) and the end result was a streak-busting win by a final score of 106-98.
The evening began with less than stellar play, particularly on the defensive end, from the home team. Nikola Jokic scored 15 points in the first nine minutes and, despite strong play from the likes of John Collins, DeAndre’ Bembry and Tyler Dorsey, the Hawks were in a hole. Denver shot 57 percent from the floor in the opening period and the Nuggets led by as many as 15 before settling in with a ten-point advantage after 12 minutes.
Atlanta did awaken in the second quarter, however, and an 11-4 run (capped by a Kent Bazemore three) allowed the team to climb within a six-point deficit. From there, the Hawks continued to chip away and, while Denver did not succumb, Atlanta trailed by only five at the break on the strength of 19 assists and just two turnovers.
Collins was the story of the first half, finishing with 16 points, five rebounds and four assists and he provided all kinds of highlights along the way. The big man converted the first bucket of the game (a three) and threw down multiple dunks before the break.
As noted, ball security was strong in the first half and there was power in the way Atlanta passed the rock, with 19 assists on 21 field goals.
Bembry provided strong floor play and, for the second straight night, Dorsey gave the Hawks a strong injection of life off the bench.
LOOK at Tyler Dorsey ❄️freezing❄️ folks with a hesitation dribble. pic.twitter.com/w0mmmddLcc— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 9, 2018
There were struggles prior to the break, though, as Trae Young had his shot blocked on five occasions (1 of 7 from the floor overall) and Alex Len struggled to gain traction against a top-shelf big in Jokic. Still, the Hawks were within striking distance as the third quarter opened, which felt like a major positive after the way the game began.
After halftime, things went (very) well for the Hawks and it got started early. Young produced a strong defensive possession, leading to a catch-and-shoot three on the other end, and Atlanta zoomed out of the gate with a 17-8 run. That put the Hawks in front by a four-point margin and, from there, the ball was rolling downhill.
Vince Carter buried a trio of threes in the period, including one to put Atlanta in front by 10 points and the period ended with authority on a put-back dunk from the elder statesman.
For a second straight game, the Hawks have scrapped to a bonus dunk at the end of the third quarter. VINCE! pic.twitter.com/vfV1KyzmxK— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 9, 2018
All told, the Hawks shot 59 percent from the floor and 8 of 12 from three in the quarter, outscoring the Nuggets by a 35-21 margin and asserting total control. Denver shot just 33 percent combined in the second and third quarters after taking an early 15-point lead and the momentum continued into the closing period.
Atlanta scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter and, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the home team led by a 17-point spread. At that point, the Nuggets stabilized to some degree but the damage was done, as the undermanned visitors didn’t have enough left in the tank (on the second night of a back-to-back) to make a run at the lead.
The only point of potential worry arrived near the four-minute mark, when Denver generated back-to-back turnovers that led to dunks. Still, Atlanta led by a 10-point margin and, after a few key defensive stops, things felt more comfortable. Then, a pair of free throws from Dewayne Dedmon at the 2:41 mark put the Hawks up by 12 and, in short order, a corner three from John Collins effectively sealed the decision.
In what certainly a team victory, a pair of Hawks posted career-bests in the scoring department. Collins was fantastic, scoring 30 points (on 12 of 20 shooting and 3 of 6 from three) and grabbing 12 rebounds, while Bembry also contributed 18 points (including 3 of 4 from three), five assists and three rebounds. Elsewhere, Carter’s offering (13 points) was significant and Atlanta finished the night with 33 assists on 40 field goals.
The Hawks will now enjoy three days of rest before hitting the road again, as the team takes on the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday evening. Stay tuned.