The Denver Nuggets really have shown some fight lately, continuing their improved play under interim head coach Melvin Hunt on Wednesday night. Denver put on perhaps their best performance of the season, dominating the 50 win Atlanta Hawks 115-102 at home. The Nuggets dominated the glass, out shot the Hawks from three and controlled the pace of the game, for much of the 48 minutes. Denver is now 4-2 under Hunt and have averaged 106.3 points per game, since he took over for Brian Shaw.
Danilo Gallinari was great here against Atlanta, recording 23 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists on 8-12 shooting from the field and 4-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Gallo really was the spark to Denver's offensive surge in this game, scoring and making plays off the dribble for the Nuggets. Since the All-Star break, Gallo has shot 40% from the three point line and is averaging 16.2 points per game. Denver seemed to have the most success in this game, when Gallo was the primary ballhandler and playmaker offensively. The Nuggets are now 6-2 in games this season, where Gallinari shot at least 60% from the three point line.
The Nuggets surprised me by out shooting the Hawks in this game, primarily from the three point line. Denver shot 42% from three, while Atlanta only made 33% of their attempts from deep. Much of this was caused by Denver's great ball movement on offense and the shooting from their bench in the third quarter. Randy Foye and Danilo Gallinari did much of the damage from deep for Denver, hitting a combined 7-10 three point attempts and helping Denver outscore Atlanta 38-26 in the third quarter.
The Nuggets finished with 28 assists against the Hawks and got 54 points from their bench. Will Barton, Jameer Nelson and Darrell Arthur were huge off the bench, capitalizing on open looks and combining for 39 points on 15-26 shooting from the field. Arthur was very effective hitting mid-range shots in the third quarter, while Nelson scored from the perimeter and Barton slashed to the rim at will, all game long. The Nuggets also did a great job of out rebounding the Hawks 44-32 and stopping Paul Millsap, allowing him to only score 12 points on 5-12 shooting from the field. Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler did a great job contesting Millsap's shots in the post, I apologize to both players for underestimating their defensive capabilities going into this game.
The Denver Nuggets had seven, yes SEVEN players finish in double figures here against the Hawks. 21 of Denver's 24 wins this season, have now come when the Nuggets have at least four players finish in double figures. Denver has had at least four players finish in double figures, in all six of their games under Melvin Hunt.
The Nuggets clearly love playing for Hunt more than they did Shaw and are benefiting from his more positive, up-tempo approach. I would love to see Denver end up with a top five pick and get the likes of Jahlil Okafor, Karl Towns or D'Angelo Russell, but it's nice to see the Nuggets playing well for once and having fun while their doing it. Lastly, if this team continues to play with this type of energy and winning games, I don't see how Melvin Hunt isn't the head coach of the Denver Nuggets next season.
The Nuggets also had a little surprise for the Fuqua family tonight: