The Atlanta Hawks have had plenty of time to think about their
last game. Whether that translates into better defense and
rebounding remains to be seen.
Atlanta will try to avoid its first set of back-to-back defeats
in more than three weeks Wednesday night when the Denver Nuggets
open a season-high five-game trip.
Since Friday’s 113-111 home loss to Cleveland prevented them
from winning seven straight for the first time since Nov. 7-20,
2009, the Hawks (9-5) have been working on their on-the-ball
defense and rebounding. Atlanta’s backcourt struggled against Cavs
guard Jeremy Pargo, and the team was outrebounded 49-28, with Al
Horford and Josh Smith combining for 19 of those for the Hawks.
Atlanta allowed 18 offensive boards that led to 27 points – the
last a game-winning putback by Alonzo Gee with less than a second
“I think we have some tough guys, it’s just a matter of when we
get out there on that court, bringing some type of physical
presence, and we didn’t do it well enough against Cleveland,” Hawks
player development instructor Nick Van Exel told the team’s
official website. “And we know against Denver, they’re just as
tough as far as going to the offensive glass, so we’ve got to be
prepared for that.”
The Nuggets (9-9) lead the league with 15.4 offensive rebounds
per game and are also scoring an NBA-best 18.4 second-chance points
Denver, though, will likely need more than just strong
rebounding performances from Kenneth Faried (10.5 per game), Danilo
Gallinari (6.1), Kosta Koufos (5.9) and JaVale McGee (5.7) if it is
going to enjoy a successful trip.
The Nuggets, losers of three straight away from home, have given
up at least 105 points in each of the last four contests. Denver
avoided a season-high fourth consecutive loss with Monday’s 113-110
victory over Toronto, but the team is 0-7 on the road when allowing
at least 102.
“When we focus on our defense, the offense is great, the rhythm
of the game is great,” Gallinari told the Nuggets’ official
website. “We are able to run and play our game.”
However, that push needs to be for the entire 48 minutes. After
giving up double-digit second-half leads to Utah and Golden State
during a winless three-game trip that ended with Friday’s 122-103
loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nuggets were outscored by 11 in
the final 12 minutes on Monday.
“We’ve got to get better at finishing the game,” coach George
The Hawks, led by point guard Jeff Teague (7.1 assists per
game), can get up and down the floor with any team – they’re among
the NBA’s best with 16.9 fast-break points per game – but they also
struggle late, averaging 22.1 points and 41.9 percent shooting in
the fourth quarter.
Atlanta was outscored 31-20 in that period on Friday, the sixth
consecutive home game its failed to outscore opponents in the final
“I told the guys, maybe we needed a game like this,” said coach
Larry Drew, whose team has won its five games at Philips Arena by
an average of 5.4 points. “We’ve been home for a little while and
we’ve dodged a couple of bullets with some teams.”
The Nuggets have won four straight in this series following a
118-117 overtime victory on March 13.
Denver had dropped three in a row at Atlanta before winning
102-87 in its last visit on March 16, 2011.