DENVER – Malcolm Delaney knew the surge was coming. He also knew he had to do something about it.
The Hawks had led the Nuggets for all but a few minutes Wednesday night. But as the third quarter crept to a close, the momentum was creeping toward the Nuggets. Gary Harris, quickly becoming one of the best young guards in the NBA, couldn’t miss. He scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the third quarter and almost singlehandedly whittled Denver’s deficit down to two points late in the period.
“Every team goes on runs,” Delaney said. “We were playing on the road. We knew they would come on a run. We kept fighting.”
Atlanta’s rapidly improving reserve guard led the charge. In the span of a few minutes, Delaney delivered a behind-the-back pass to a trailing Ersan Ilyasova, freed himself for a layup with a break-your-ankles crossover dribble and then buried a stepback jump shot.
All of a sudden, the Hawks were up 93-81. They never looked back.
“Malcolm’s minutes and Malcolm’s play were huge for us tonight,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He was a steadying force with that second group and made plays on both ends of the court. He brings a toughness. He’s another guy who has played a lot of ball in Europe, but he’s seasoned and has played in tough environments with tough schedules. He was fabulous tonight.”
Delaney was one of several Hawks players who were briefly stuck in an elevator in Los Angeles on Tuesday. But he was anything but stagnant in guiding a Hawks bench unit that got the better of Denver’s reserves.
Starting point guard Dennis Schroder was a catalyst, notching a double-double with a team-high 19 points and 10 assists. But Delaney kept pushing the speedometer. His playmaking flash in the fourth quarter took the air out of the Pepsi Center.
It was the second straight games with six assists for Delaney, who also is averaging nine points in his last four games.
“Like I always say, whatever Coach needs from me I’m going to do,” Delaney said. “I’m going to take advantage of my minutes and I’m trying to be more aggressive now, not just to score but to find other people. It’s helping the rhythm.”