The Nuggets aren’t usually a team that plays good defense, but the defense that they played to open this game was laughable. The Hawks, without Trae Young, John Collins, or DeAndre Hunter, opened up the game on a 13-2 lead that led Michael Malone to make an unsurprising timeout early. After the horrendous start, the Nuggets did start to claw back a bit — finding the abundant amount of weak spots in the Hawks’ defense. They weren’t making a few looks that they typically would, and the defense still wasn’t good, but the Nuggets were making their way back.

When Bones Hyland stepped back into the game after missing a few games, it became apparent why he’s so important to the team. In 4 minutes he put up 9 points, including a buzzer beater at the end of the corner from way downtown. The offense was helped in what was otherwise an incredibly clunky quarter for them, but the defense was not. The Nuggets allowed 25 points in the paint in the first half and the Nuggets went down 28-25 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter opened with more bad defense from the Nuggets. The bench of Bones, Ish, Davon Reed, Vlatko, and DeAndre just wasn’t working on defense. There were miscommunications on nearly every defensive possession — it was a comedy of errors. Bones was still playing well offensively, but the lineup that was running just wasn’t playing good defense. The Nuggets were lucky that the Hawks were so short handed or it wouldn’t have been close. Davon Reed especially was playing poor defensively, a close out on AJ Griffin where he didn’t put a hand up led to a Malone timeout.

When the starters came back in, you would expect they played with more aggression, but no — they looked like they were sleeping until tip-off. It was a sluggish half from everyone on both sides of the floor, especially Nikola Jokic who was getting outhustled at every turn; rebounds, defense, etc. The Nuggets trailed the Hawks by 14 at half after cutting the lead to 2 for much of the early second quarter. They needed the starters to play with far more urgency.

The starters did respond to open the second half though, going on a 9-4 run in the first two and a half minutes of the second half. Joker was more aggressive, and everyone else followed his example. It continued throughout the third quarter, the offense looked far better and the defense followed suit. At one point, the Nuggets took the lead. It was looking like a great quarter from the Nuggets. Joker gave them 15 points in a masterclass of a quarter, but the final two minutes saw the Nuggets collapse a bit and the Hawks got their lead back up to double digits.

The fourth quarter opening continued with much the same brand of basketball that the third quarter closed with. The Nuggets allowed a 17-4 run for the Hawks from the 2:54 mark in the third quarter to the 10:30 mark in the third quarter. They just didn’t have enough fire power with Joker and Jamal sitting to cut into the lead by much. It took the two a decent amount of time to check in, but when they did the Nuggets started closing the gap.

Jamal Murray started scoring a bit, and after just a little bit the Nuggets found themselves back into single digits. However, they just couldn’t breach that barrier late. Ultimately, the Nuggets would come up short after they couldn’t ever put together a run, and they couldn’t get consistent stops either. They let Dejounte Murray cook them in the pick and roll all night and the Nuggets would lose 117-109.