Five observations from the Hawks’ 117-106 wire-to-wire victory over the Nuggets Wednesday.
1. Tim Hardaway Jr. pointed and Dennis Schroder delivered. Hardaway converted two alley-oop passes from near half court after signaling Schroder as part of the Hawks’ fast start.
“He pointed up,” Schroder said. “I trust my teammate. We are playing fast and that’s best for the team.”
Hardaway’s first dunk came late in the first quarter and gave the Hawks a 35-23 lead. The second came late in the second quarter and gave the Hawks a 69-51 lead.
So, do the Hawks practice such acrobatics?
“Actually, we practiced those yesterday,” Hardaway said. “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.”
From half court?
“No,” he said. “From the 3-point line.”
Hardaway said he only calls for such lobs with the path to the basket is clear. It was.
2. The Hawks got off to a fast start. Kent Bazemore hit two straight 3-pointers to start the game and the Hawks were off and running. The Hawks hit their first four 3-point attempts on the way to 39 first-quarter points.
The Hawks finished the first period shooting .615 (16 of 26).
“I liked the way we were taking care of the ball,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said of the Hawks’ start. “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.”
The Hawks finished with 31 assists.
3. The Hawks led by as many as 20 points early in the third quarter. They still had to hold on to get the win. The Nuggets got as close as four points, 109-105, with 2:56 remaining.
The Hawks have erased 20-point deficits in two road wins this season. They were in jeopardy of having it done to them.
“First off, those things can’t happen,” Paul Millsap said. “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.”
4. Millsap started the Hawks decisive run with a three-point play. He converted on a layup and made the free throw after being fouled by Wilson Chandler
The Hawks ended the game on an 8-1 run from the point of the four-point lead, including five straight points.
“That particular play, that was my mindset of not letting them get any closer and being aggressive,” Millsap said.
5. The Nuggets entered the game second in the NBA in scoring at 115.9 points per game. Much of their work is done in transition. The Hawks had two keys to the game – stopping the transition and keeping center Nikola Jokic from orchestrating offense with his passing.
The Hawks were pleased with much of their effort. They held a 23-12 advantage in fast-break points. Jokic had 18 points, 15 rebounds and four assists. Jokic had nine offensive rebounds but several of those were tips on two possessions.
The Hawks held the Nuggets to 10 points below their season average.