Jokic chipped in eight rebounds and five assists, while birthday boy Will Barton III pitched in 28 points of his own in the game, with the two teammates leading the way for a team that seemed cold from the field.
Trae Young led the Hawks in scoring with 29 points and assists with 12, but his efforts tonight weren’t quite good enough to get a win. Kevin Huerter finished with 22 points, while John Collins wasn’t able to make a big enough difference, especially on his way to 17 points.
The game started off with both teams able to make baskets, with neither team playing that tough of defense. Jokic was able to get his way in the paint, which was to be expected, considering who the Hawks have playing post defense. Michael Porter Jr. and Jerami Grant were the first subs off the bench for the Nuggets, a move that Coach Malone discussed before the start of the game against the Wizards. Trae Young hit some deep 3-pointers, but the reverses were able to keep pace with the Hawks bench to close out the quarter, 31-29, with the Hawks ahead.
The Nuggets got a basket from Michael Porter Jr. to start the second quarter, who shared the court with Monte Morris, Jamal Murray, Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant. The rookie was able to pair with Plumlee for a basket, showing a nice two-man game with a cut with Plumlee threading the ball to him, then Porter dropping the ball back off to Plumlee when the defense collapsed on him. Trae Young checked back in with about nine minutes left in the game, and the Nuggets were able to switch Porter — the two are very good friends — onto him, with the Nuggets forward getting to the free throw line.
Monte Morris knocked in a triple, stretching the Nuggets run to 14-3, as the team’s lead continued to increase. Morris was able to get some minutes with the rest of the starters, but their shots weren’t able to fall and the Hawks were able to make a little run of their own. DeAndre Hunter dribbled into a triple from the top of the key, and the bucket cut the Nuggets lead to one, 51-50, as the Nuggets continued to struggle to score. Jamal Murray was able to get his first field goal of the game, driving with his left hand against Young, stepping into a fadeaway from about 10 feet. Murray made another basket to beat the buzzer, giving Denver a 64-56 lead after two.
The third quarter started off as the Kevin Huerter show, with the Hawks young wing getting a steal and knocking down a couple 3-pointers as the Nuggets opponent battled their way back to a two point deficit. Trae Young made it to the free throw line with a really bad call, flinging his arms into Gary Harris’s face and the ref rewarded him with a whistle. Nikola Jokic was able to set a new season-high in points, continuing to pour in shots inside the arc.
Murray got crushed by Alex Len on a screen, with the Nuggets having to call a timeout so they could get their point guard off the floor to receive medical attention. After the timeout, Jokic was able to find Barton for a triple after he snared an offensive rebound, and the team was able to take advantage of having Young, Huerter, and John Collins on the bench. Lloyd Pierce was called for a technical foul for vociferously complaining about how physical Jokic was being against Damian Jones, a weak technical that gave the Nuggets a fresh clock with 30 seconds left. The Nuggets were able to retain the lead by the end of the quarter, 91-86, but the Hawks did outscore them by three points.
The Nuggets were able to get back-to-back points to start the fourth from Morris and Porter Jr., with the latter scoring on a really nice dunk. Trae Young had a highlight play, going through his legs with a dribble on a drive and then finishing. Murray turned the ball over, lobbing the ball into Hunter’s hands when trying to lob the ball to Jokic, but recovered in transition by swatting the ball out of John Collins’ hands. Will Barton put another candle on his cake with a PUJIT 3-pointer, padding the Nuggets lead to 106-100.
Murray was able to get a steal and finish in transition, but he wasn’t able to make a difference against Young as the young guard continued to score from the perimeter. Jokic had a big offensive rebound, flipping in a shot for his 43rd and 44th points on the night. With two minutes left, Barton got into the paint on a drive, had his shot blocked, but recovered the ball and tossed in a floater to give the Nuggets a nine-point lead. That shot by Barton would ice the game, with Murray scoring the final field goal for the team to close things out for the Nuggets.