The Atlanta Hawks were finally back home from a five-game, eight-day road swing (The Hawks were home for two days of those days in between games in Miami and Chicago this week) and playing their first game in newly renovated Philips Arena.
The home crowd and new digs aside, there was nothing new about the result, as Atlanta lost their fifth game in a row after winning their season opener, 105-100 to the Denver Nuggets and former Hawks four-time all-star forward Paul Millsap (16 points, four rebounds and two steals).
The Hawks led by a point at halftime, 53-52, after trading the lead with the Nuggets throughout the first half. The Hawks would fail to lead again for the entire second half as Denver took advantage of 46-43 rebounding advantage (both teams would finish the game with 11 offensive rebounds) and some veteran leadership down the stretch from Millsap.
A Marco Belinelli three-pointer, he would make a remarkable five of seven attempts on Friday night, brought the Hawks within five points of the Nuggets with two minutes to play in the game. Prior to the shot, former Hawks all-star Millsap scored two baskets on what would be considered typical Millsap baskets: jump hook in the paint and flip shot over a defender’s outstretched hand.
Millsap scored another two points on the following Nuggets possession to bring the lead back to seven points at 101-94. The Nuggets needed baskets down the stretch and their veteran power forward came through for them the same way he did for four seasons while in Atlanta.
The Hawks needed baskets too and much of the ones they did get throughout the game came from Dennis Schroder who missed the past two games following an injury in the team’s loss in Brooklyn on Oct. 22.
Schroder was back to his old ways, scoring 20 points in 32 minutes of play. Belinelli added 15 points, all of which came from beyond the three-point arc. Second-year forward Taurean Prince displayed his trademark versatility with an all-around game of 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Free agent signee Dewayne Dedmon chipped in a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. Despite solid nights from three starters and a player off the bench (Belinelli), the Nuggets might have set the example of how a balanced offense should perform.
Millsap may have finished the game for the Nuggets down the stretch but throughout the contest, there were a number of his new teammates that picked up the slack after his slow start; Millsap was 1-6 for four points after two quarters in his first game back to Atlanta.
Three Nuggets scored 18 points and two other scored 16 points on Friday night. There was no one player that Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff could focus on throughout the game. Denver sixth man Will Barton shot 8-17 for his 18 points and guard Emmanuel Mudiay was 5-11 for his 16 points, both players did their damage in 28 minutes of play.
Nuggets Center Nikola (18 points, 15 rebounds and five assists) found a way time and time again to score a basket that either put an end to a Hawks mini-run or to put Denver ahead. Gary Harris was the third Nugget with 18 points, he did the bulk of his damage during the first half (14 points).
Since the 18-point loss in Charlotte, the Hawks (1-5) have held a fourth-quarter lead in every game this season with the exception of Friday’s loss to Denver.
Asked about the tough start to the season Kent Bazemore, who scored seven points during a tough shooting night (3-9 from the field, 1-3 on three-point attempts with 0 free throw attempts) said, “It’s been a tough little stretch but we’re doing the best we can. We have a ton of guys that are always ready to make plays.”
He added, “That’s the beauty of this team.”
Dennis Schroder and Ersan Ilyasova were back in the Hawks starting lineup tonight after missing the last two games. Schroder finished the game with a team-high six assists and no turnovers.
Former Saint Francis (Alpharetta) alumnus Malik Beasley played seven minutes and scored two points (1-2 FG) with three rebounds and an assist in his annual return home. Beasley was a first-round pick of the Nuggets in 2016 after a season at Florida State.
Atlanta is off on Saturday and returns to action against the Milwaukee Bucks at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The official scorer’s report from home opener read that Friday night’s game was a sell out (Attendance: 16,220). From my vantage point on press row that was hardly the case in regards to physical bodies in seats. There’s a chance the attendance numbers were referring to tickets sold.
Run The Jewels performed at halftime and after the game.