Hawks vs. Nuggets — Things of Note

Graham Chapple —  February 9, 2017

Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Hawks got back to winning ways on Wednesday night with a 117-106 victory against the Denver Nuggets at Philips Arena. In the absence of Emmanuel Mudiay and Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler led the Nuggets with 24 points while Nikola Jokić added 18 points and 15 rebounds. For the Hawks, they were led by Paul Millsap’s 23 points while Dennis Schröder added a double-double of his own, 24 points and 10 assists.

Finishing the right way

The Hawks had built a 20 point lead over the Nuggets in the third quarter but the Nuggets would comeback and make things a little interesting for the Hawks. Their fourth quarter high 12 point lead had been whittled down to just four points (105-109) with 2:56 remaining in the game and in possession of the ball. Gary Harris missed a three-pointer that would’ve cut the lead down to just one point and that’s when Paul Millsap took matters into his own (“f***ing amazing”) hands scoring on the following trip plus the foul.

“That particular play, that was my mindset of not letting them get any closer and being aggressive.” — Paul Millsap

This play would mark the start of a 8-1 run to end the game and, while the Hawks ultimately won by 11 points, there’s still frustration among players about their inability to put teams away.

“…those things can’t happen. We have to do a better job of closing teams out. If you have a 20-point lead at home, we have to do a better job of putting our foot on their throats and getting them out of the game.” — Paul Millsap

Kent Bazemore rang a similar bell:

“…We were a good team for most of the game, but we have to continue to get better and put teams away.” — Kent Bazemore

While it was frustrating to see the Hawks almost give up a 20 point in the second half lead it was good to see them close the game the right way. Even if you let a lead slip, you still have to close out teams/games and the Hawks did, to be fair. For the Nuggets, they believe they simply ran out of time and energy:

“Definitely ran out of time. And when you’re coming back, you’re expending so much energy just coming back and doing all of those things. So you just run out a little bit in the end.” — Wilson Chandler

The Nuggets, shorthanded as they were, can be proud of their second half effort. They made the Hawks work for this win and definitely unsettled them, always remaining in touch.

“Proud of our guys in the second half. At least we competed. I saw a lot of improvement in the second half, but we can’t wait until we’re down 20 on the road for that to happen.” — Coach Mike Malone

What a strange team this Hawks team is. After winning wire-to-wire against the Magic on Saturday they lost wire-to-wire against the Jazz on Monday and won wire-to-wire here. Three wire-to-wire games in a row…I wonder how often that has happened…

This was also the last home game for the Hawks for two weeks, who now head West on a three game road trip before the All-Star break, so it was good to give the fans this win.

Starting the right way

The Hawks have been prone to starting off games too slowly, allowing opponents to build early leads, often double digit leads. Not so last night. The Hawks started off this game with good energy and scored a season high 39 first quarter points on 62% shooting from the field.

The Hawks didn’t commit a single turnover in the first quarter while registered 10 assists. This was something that pleased Coach Bud.

“I liked the way we were taking care of the ball. We were moving it. We were getting out in transition. Guys were sharing it. A lot of assists. They were going hard to the offensive boards. Sometimes it’s a battle. When they are sending that many guys and putting that much pressure on the offensive board, if we could get the rebound we felt like we could get out in transition.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

Behind a 33 point second quarter, the Hawks scored a season-high 72 first half points on 55% shooting from the field and 47% from three, registering 17 assists while committing just one turnover.

“It was a good first half, to start out with the positive. We had 72 points and I thought the energy and the activity was good.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

The Hawks would finish with 31 assists and 10 turnovers but it was great to see the Hawks start the game the right way. We shall soon see if they can chain consistent first quarters together.

Coach Malone would lay the blame for the Nuggets’ poor start at his own doorstep.

“I owned it. They were executing the game plan that I put in. So I owned it. I said, ‘My game plan (stinks). Let’s get more aggressive, let’s get them on their heels.’ And the players responded…” — Coach Mike Malone

I personally think Mike Malone was just sticking up for his team here, they weren’t horrible by any means…

Bembry continues to shine

With Thabo Sefolosha missing his sixth straight game, keeping Tim Hardaway Jr. in the starting lineup in the process, DeAndre’ Bembry continued to see rotation minutes and I thought he played very well. He scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 17 minutes. Just want to briefly look at some of the good things Bembry did last night…

In the second quarter, Bembry comes off a Dwight screen and Nikola Jokić doesn’t step up to meet Bembry, who pushes home a lovely floater.

Nothing massive but just a nice little play from Bembry, I love a nice floater.

It’s safe to say Bembry’s confidence is high right now and I think that’s evident in this play. Here, he’s actively looking for the ball, wanting to make something happen, and he gets it from Delaney. Off of the Muscala screen, Bembry pops a nice behind-the-back pass to find the open Mike Muscala.

Though Moose missed the shot, I really liked the confidence from Bembry to seek the ball and to execute a nice behind-the-back pass that led to an open three.

Late in the third quarter, Bembry blocks a shot that leads to an opportunity in transition. Bembry moves with the fastbreak led by THJ. Though THJ misses the shot, Bembry stays with the play and lays in the offensive rebound.

I just like the hustle shown by Bembry to get involved, get into position and stick with the play after the miss.

And, finally, Bembry creates a highlight play for himself. Again off of the Muscala screen, Bembry drives around Darrell Arthur and flushes home a powerful dunk.

It’s nice to see to Bembry make something happen out of, pretty much, nothing. Oh, by the way, how about the spacing provided by three-point master Kris Humphries, drawing out the rim protection in the form of Jokić. Nice work, Kris.

Again, these plays aren’t going to change the world but these are all the little things that please Coach Bud and you can see why Taurean Prince hasn’t got much of a look since Sefolosha has been sidelined.


You like lobs? Dennis Schröder and THJ gave Hawks fans two great lobs from considerable distances.

One from half court:

And one a step or two inside:

When a teammate points upward, the ball must follow…

“He pointed up. I trust my teammate. We are playing fast and that’s best for the team.” — Dennis Schröder

 Maybe not quite from half court, but this is something the Hawks actually practice.

“Actually, we practiced those yesterday. We have a drill where we do backcourt cuts, passing and try to make five in a row on lob passes. We worked on that yesterday in practice. Tonight we did a good job of catching lobs.” — Tim Hardaway Jr.

Faried’s injury

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter on this play:

Faried had to be carried back to the locker room, did not return and left the arena on crutches.

Faried played just nine minutes and is officially listed as day-to-day. Get well soon, Kenneth.

How not to use a screen

One of the funnier moments, at least for me, in this game came in the dying embers of the third quarter. Malcolm Delaney drains some clock and then goes to make his move, only to hit a wall in the form of his teammate, Paul Millsap.

Ouch. You know, you’re supposed to go around the screen set by your own player not into it. Alright, alright, joking aside Delaney had a little (only a little) help from Jamal Murray who was called for the foul here. I wonder if this could make Shaqtin’…


Paul Millsap is headed to his fourth All-Star game this season and, prior to tip-off, was presented his All-Star jersey by owner Tony Ressler.

See you in NOLA, Paul.

Up next:

The Hawks (31-22) now head out West for a three game road trip that’ll see them through to the All-Star break starting with a matchup against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

Game stats: NBA.com
Hawks quotes: The AJC via Chris Vivlamore
More Hawks quotes: Peachtree Hoops via Kris Willis
Nuggets quotes: The Denver Post via Christopher Dempsey

Graham Chapple