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Hawks pull impressive upset in Denver, 125-121

A big-time win behind a massive night from Trae Young.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks made their way to the Mile High City on Tuesday night to do battle with the always tough Denver Nuggets. On the injury report for Atlanta were a bevy of players. Allen Crabbe, Alex Len and Cam Reddish were all listed as probable while Vince Carter, John Collins, Evan Turner and Chandler Parsons were all designated as out for tonight’s action. Denver listed Malik Beasley as out and Michael Porter Jr. as probable.

The game began with the Nuggets swiftly getting ahead of the Hawks behind a small Paul Millsap explosion where he scored or assisted on the first nine points of the game. Denver got out to a 12-0 run before Kevin Huerter stopped the bleeding with a deep three pointer followed by a 16-8 extended run from Atlanta which tightened up the score before Lloyd Pierce dove into his bench.

The unit Pierce put out on the floor of Wallace, Bembry, Reddish, Fernando and Len was starved for offense (to say the least), but their defense was good enough to hold serve while the starters rested. Reddish had some extended solid play in the first quarter where he made several difficult passes against one of the tougher paint defenses in the NBA.

Atlanta had the deficit down to just five points with 43 seconds remaining in the first, but allowed four quick ones in the final moments to make the first quarter look worse than it actually was on the whole. The Hawks found themselves down 34-25 after one.

In the second quarter, the Hawks turned to the three-pointer, which is such a good equalizer for teams that have a hard time defending. After consecutive long balls from Hunter and Young, Atlanta was down just three. The Hawks really were able to turn up the offensive intensity thanks to a couple of obscene three-point makes by Young, which really got him going as well.

After a short lull from both teams, Atlanta got started on a 22-8 extended run fueled by Young and Reddish. Reddish had key assists on two straight three-pointers and really was getting the ball around better than we’ve seen from him yet in the young season.

The Hawks outscored the Nuggets 38-20 overall in the second quarter to come storming back. Atlanta led going into the locker room 63-54 with Young leading all scorers at 17. On the quarter the Hawks shot 15-22 from the floor, 7-11 from deep while dishing out 12 assists as a team.

The third period started out in some strong back and forth action as the teams exchanged three-point makes. Action really tapered off when the game slowed down with both teams committing some shooting fouls.

Unfortunately, Kevin Huerter was slapped on the arm by Nikola Jokic on a drive to the rim and had to leave the game. There didn’t seem to be an malicious intent, but it kept Huerter out for the remainder of the game.

Once the teams got going again, the Hawks found themselves up just 75-69, but Young was really able to stabilize things with his sixth three-pointer of the game. Atlanta built their cushion back up to a ten-point game off of two straight assists in the lane by Young and a few other flashy plays.

Denver really battled back, but it seemed like Young just had an answer for every rally. There was absolutely no defense played, but the Nuggets not having an answer for the Hawks’ guard kept them in a hole. Young compiled 27 points and nine assists before the end of the third and Atlanta had a firm 98-89 lead going into the final period.

The fourth quarter opened up pretty poorly for the Hawks who seemingly couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. The Hawks airballed more than one three-pointer in the opening minutes and the Nuggets took full advantage with the best punch they could throw. Gary Harris and Jerami Grant were the main culprits of the Denver run.

Atlanta countered with more Young and Parker and that formula seemed to work pretty well. Young hit a three-pointer from about 35 feet out to get his 30th point of the night and then hit one from 30 feet away just a few moments later for his eighth make from deep on the night. That had the Hawks up 110-104 with just over five minutes remaining in the game.

The Nuggets gave another solid push late, but the Hawks did a good job of gumming the game up as things slowed to a crawl. Young was the Atlanta offense late and handled the ball almost exclusively. Young knocked down two free throws with just under two minutes remaining to put the Hawks up 118-112 and score his 37th point of the night.

Then, with just over a minute remaining Young was fouled again and managed to keep the buffer at seven points as he poured in his 38th and 39th points. Denver had some looks, but unfortunately it was just too little too late.

Trae Young polished off his epic night with another free throw to set his final line at 42 points and 11 assists. Jabari Parker put in 20 points of his own along with nine boards. The Hawks really missed Huerter’s offense in the second half, but Young sustained them long enough to squeak out the win. More to come on Huerter soon.

Atlanta will be back at it on Thursday against the Suns in Phoenix. Stay tuned.