Nuggets stum­ble to end of stand

HAWKS 119, NUGGETS 105

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christo­pher Dempsey

The Nuggets giveth, and the Nuggets taketh away.

Satur­day’s game had the good stuff: late- game ex­e­cu­tion to pull out a vic­tory over the Detroit Pis­tons. Mon­day night’s con­test dis­played the frus­trat­ing re­al­ity of an in­con­sis­tent team do­ing in­con­sis­tent things.

The Nuggets lost to the At­lanta Hawks 119- 105 at the Pep­siCen­ter. That snapped At­lanta’s eightgame los­ing streak in Den­ver.

“That’s four games in a rownow, I think, that we’ve al­lowed teams to come in here and get what­ever they want on of­fense,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

From the se­cond quar­ter on, it wasn’t all that close.

As a re­sult, the Nuggets fin-

ished a wildly in­con­sis­tent home­s­tand with four wins and four losses. It be­gan with three wins in four games. It ended with three losses in four games.

“This home­s­tand re­ally is a mi­cro­cosm of who we’ve been the whole year,” Malone said. “We go 4- 4. I wish it was bet­ter. But hope­fully we can get right on this road trip.”

At least not many peo­ple sawit. One of the small­est crowds this sea­son, of­fi­cially 10,280, was in the arena.

The se­cond quar­ter­was a strug­gle. While At­lanta was crank­ing up its of­fense, the Nuggets couldn’t find theirs. Con­stant ball move­ment from the Hawks gave the Nuggets fits.

And when the ball wasn’t be­ing whipped around, Hawks guards Jeff Teague and Den­nis Schroder were a blur, blow­ing by their men and get­ting straight to the bas­ket — or blow­ing by their men, get­ting into the lane, col­laps­ing the Nuggets’ de­fense and dish­ing to a open cut­ter.

Both sce­nar­ios were bad news for the Nuggets.

“They were do­ing what they al­ways do— drive, kick, open shot,” Malone said. “Great ball move­ment. The ball never sticks. Watch­ing them is re­ally fun. They’re a well- coached team, and they play the right way.”

There were some spurts in the se­cond half. The Nuggets ap­peared they might threaten to get back into the game, but the Hawks al­ways had an an­swer. At­lanta led by as many as 22 points in the se­cond half.

“They just out­played us,” guard Will Bar­ton said. “They had us all over the floor, run­ning around.”

The Nuggets hit the road Wed­nes­day for the first time since Jan. 8 for three games against East­ern Con­fer­ence teams, be­gin­ning at Bos­ton against the Celtics.

The Nuggets were led by Bar­ton’s 21 points off the bench. Danilo Gal­li­nari, Nikola Jo­kic and Gary Har­ris had 15 points apiece, with Jo­kic adding 10 re­bounds. Har­ris had 10 points in the first quar­ter. The Nuggets shot 54 per­cent as a team in the first 12 min­utes, but things went down­hill from there.

At­lanta, which was play­ing the fi­nal gameof a four- gameWestern Con­fer­ence road trip, was led by Paul Mill­sap’s 22 points and nine re­bounds. Teague added 12 points and 10 as­sists.

“The de­fense was hor­ri­ble,” Nuggets guard Em­manuel Mu­diay said. “We def­i­nitely could have come­out there­with bet­ter en­ergy.”

Nuggets cen­ter Jusuf Nur­kic col­lects a re­bound against At­lanta Hawks point guard Den­nis Schroder onMon­day night at the Pepsi Cen­ter. Doug Pensinger, Getty Im­ages

Nuggets power for­ward Ken­neth Faried goes up for a shot against At­lanta Hawks cen­ter Al Hor­ford onMon­day night at the Pepsi Cen­ter. Doug Pensinger, Getty Im­ages

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