Fresh off a defeat in Charlotte the Nuggets delve even further into the south as they play Atlanta tonight in front some of the nicest seat back fabric in the NBA.
That is not entirely fair, the Hawks have consistently sold over 14,000 tickets for their home games this season and with Iverson and Melo making their only trip to Atlanta tonight look for the no shows to be at a minimum.
The Hawks are a young very talented team. They are on the cusp of joining the NBA’s version of the post season NIT that is the Eastern Conference playoffs as they currently occupy the eighth seed ahead of Chicago and Indiana. They are 11-8 at home and just clubbed the Bulls like they were a baby seal two days ago.
If the Nuggets can lose to Charlotte they can certainly lose to the Hawks. Atlanta has good talent at every position other than point guard and they have three scorers who can light up anyone on any given night with Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Marvin Williams.
Joe Johnson is having a down year statistically, but scored 37 points against the Bulls shooting 5-6 on threes and 6-6 from the line. If there is anything that can help a perimeter player work out of a slump it is playing the Nuggets so look for him to follow that up with another good night.
Al Horford has been great for Atlanta in the paint. He is averaging 9.7 rebounds a game and pulled down a career high 19 just two games ago. The key to Horford’s impact is his willingness to fit in and play a role. How many top three picks coming off back to back NCAA championships would be willing to only take seven shots in 30 minutes of playing time? He is very unselfish and content to do the grunt work in the lane. It should be fun to watch Horford and Camby battle for rebounds.
The Hawks youth is displayed through their inconsistency. They had a five game winning streak which they followed up by losing five out of six before the aforementioned defeat of the Bulls. They may be ready to get hot and bust loose on another winning streak so the Nuggets had better be ready to play.
I have not heard any news on whether or not Eduardo Najera will be available tonight. Melo strained his back last night, but will play against Atlanta. Martin will have to play at least thirty minutes again tonight. It will be only the second time he has played over thirty minutes on back to back nights.
Tonight is a gut check for the Nuggets. They are playing a good team on the road. They are coming off a disappointing loss the night before. They are banged up and shorthanded. We still do not know how Nene’s situation is going to impact them mentally. The west is far too competitive to drop both of these games and expect to keep pace. They need to realize that and play with a sense of desperation that has escaped them so far this season.
Show us something Denver and beat the Hawks!