Hawks pull o≠ a road rally, stun Nuggets with 9-0 run

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Kosmider

The Nuggets had won three games in a row at the Pepsi Cen­ter head­ing into Fri­day night’s game against the At­lanta Hawks.

But the Nuggets still hadn’t proved they could close a tight game in front of their fans. And noth­ing changed against the Hawks as Den­ver fol­lowed a fa­mil­iar, trou­bling for­mula — fail­ing to fin­ish.

The Hawks closed the game on a 9-0 run to stun the Nuggets 109-108, At­lanta’s fourth con­sec­u­tive road win.

Paul Mill­sap, with the Hawks trail­ing 108107, drew a foul on Dar­rell Arthur on a jump shot with six sec­onds left. He made both free throws to put the Hawks in front.

Wilson Chan­dler drove to the bas­ket on the Nuggets’ fi­nal pos­ses­sion but could not get a tough run­ner to fall.

Hawks for­ward Mike Mus­cala hit a 3pointer with less than three min­utes re­main­ing to cut the Nuggets’ lead to 102-100. But Will Bar­ton hit a run­ner and Em­manuel Mu­diay hit four con­sec­u­tive free throws af­ter two ag­gres­sive drives to the bas­ket to give the Nuggets a 108-100 lead with 1:43 left.

Mu­diay fin­ished with 17 points and five as­sists and was a per­fect 10-of-10 at the freethrow line. And he had ap­peared to give Den­ver enough of a cush­ion.

But Den­nis Schroder, who fin­ished with a game-high 27 points, kept at­tack­ing and get­ting to the free-throw line. He made four straight free throws to cut Den­ver’s lead to four.

“We have to de­fend with­out foul­ing,” Bar­ton said.

The game turned on a call with 42 sec­onds left. Nikola Jo­kic was called for his sixth foul, and a tech­ni­cal foul on Nuggets coach Michael Malone helped the Hawks trim their deficit to one point head­ing into the pos­ses­sion that ended in Mill­sap’s win­ning free throws.

“Ob­vi­ously, the tech­ni­cal was a big play. I apol­o­gized to our team,” Malone said. “I did not re­al­ize what I said was some­thing you could get a tech­ni­cal for. I think it’s a slightly ridicu­lous call, con­sid­er­ing the time and score of the game.”

The Nuggets had built a nine-point lead in the sec­ond quar­ter by tight­en­ing up de­fen­sively. The Hawks made only two of their first 12 shots in the pe­riod, with Den­ver clos­ing the paint and forc­ing con­tested jump shots. At­lanta missed its first six 3point­ers of the sec­ond quar­ter be­fore find­ing rhythm late and cut­ting the Nuggets’ half­time lead to 55-51.

Den­ver’s first half was high­lighted by the kind of ball move­ment that Malone has praised dur­ing the team’s re­cent stretch of home suc­cess. Den­ver as­sisted on 18 of its first 20 fields goals. That in­cluded five as­sists from Jo­kic — all in the first quar­ter.

Jo­kic’s most im­pres­sive pass came when he was pres­sured a few feet out­side the 3point line on the wing by Hawks for­ward

Mike Scott. Jo­kic hung in and de­liv­ered an over­head lob pass for Chan­dler, who fin­ished the play with a thun­der­ous dunk.

Chan­dler was ag­gres­sive in the first quar­ter, scor­ing 13 points on 6-of-8 shoot­ing. He fin­ished with 19 points and 11 re­bounds. Danilo Gal­li­nari paced Den­ver with 21 points and also had 11 re­bounds.

As im­pres­sive as Jo­kic’s play­mak­ing was for the Nuggets, they didn’t get enough of it. Jo­kic has bat­tled foul trou­ble since en­ter­ing the start­ing lineup, and Fri­day’s game was no dif­fer­ent. He missed a large chunk of the third quar­ter af­ter pick­ing up his fourth foul.

“Nikola Jo­kic has to learn,” Malone said. “This is the fourth or fifth game he’s started where he’s got­ten into foul trou­ble. The game he doesn’t get into foul trou­ble he flirts with a triple-dou­ble.

“He’s hurt­ing him­self and hurt­ing the team. He just has to be smarter.”

At­lanta ‘s Paul Mill­sap, sec­ond from left, and Mike Mus­cala cel­e­brate the Hawks’ 109-108 vic­tory over the Nuggets at the Pepsi Cen­ter on Fri­day night as Den­ver’s Wilson Chan­dler, right, and Dar­rell Arthur walk off the court. David Zalubowski, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Nuggets for­ward Ken­neth Faried blocks the Hawks’ Paul Mill­sap from scor­ing on this play Fri­day night. Matthew Stock­man, Getty Im­ages

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