The Hawks moved the ball plenty, with 24 assists to 12 turnovers. They were aggressive in attacking the basket, as well as taking shots from deep, making 35.7% of their shots.
Bogdan Bogdanovic made his season debut after recovering from offseason knee surgery. He scored five points on 2-of-9 shooting from the floor and 1-of-6 shooting from long range.
2. Without Young, Collins and Hunter in the rotation, the Hawks needed a big game from Murray. The guard delivered and helped move the ball effectively in the first half.
“I thought DJ tonight did a great job of establishing the tempo from start to finish, running the team, managing the team and all of our guys who stepped in the starting roles,” McMillan said.
Murray ended the night with 34 points, three rebounds and eight assists as he helped to guide the Hawks through all four quarters. Even in the dicey third quarter when the Nuggets went on a 19-8 run, then a 11-3 run and took a 79-78 lead, Murray was there to navigate the Hawks out of the situation.
After a 1:59 break, Murray checked back in for the final second of the third and knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Hawks a nine-point lead heading into the fourth.
By the end of the night, he made 13 of his 22 overall shots and knocked down four 3-pointers.
“I’m more impressed with the one turnover because I’m somebody who knows turning the ball over could change the game,” Murray said. “So having one turnover for myself and what, 12 for the team, it’s pretty good. But like I said, one for me, especially coming off games where I had five, seven, you know, like I take care of the ball.”
3. A.J. Griffin has played just 16 games in his young NBA career and has shown growth in each of them. He scored 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting overall and remained calm even as the Nuggets closed out on him around the perimeter.
Instead of getting flustered, Griffin took another dribble inside the arc then buried a shot from midrange.
He proved effective on the defensive end, too. He had three steals and made up for his mistakes with aggressive closeouts on Nuggets players camped out on the perimeter.
Griffin, who still hasn’t seen all 30 NBA teams in his short career, knows there is still a lot to learn and he has identified the formula that will help him.
“Just staying consistent, coming into the game, making sure I’m doing things on both ends of the floor and make sure I’m not getting complacent,” Griffin said. “I gotta continue to see where I could get better, continue to have the same mindset that I had, when I wasn’t getting the minutes. So just continue to stay with that formula.”
4. Defensively the Hawks strung together one of their better defensive games, allowing fewer than 30 points in all but the third quarter.
The Hawks forced 16 turnovers and made the Nuggets work for every shot and limited them to 11 second-chance points.
The Nuggets did try to make a push in the third quarter, where they outscored the Hawks 35-30 and pulled the game within one. McMillan said that the team adjusted to that by rotating out of the corners and made sure to get back in transition to slow the Nuggets down.
5. The Hawks got big nights from Jarrett Culver and Jalen Johnson, who started in place of Hunter and Collins. Both chipped in 10 points each.
Johnson recorded his first career double-double in his first career start, with 10 rebounds as he primarily handled slowing Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon.
Culver, who started his first game of the season, also had seven rebounds and two steals to establish his presence on the defensive end.
Stat to know
50 -- The Hawks shot above 50% from the field for the third game in a row (55.7%). It’s the first time since March 25 through March 30 of 2022 that the Hawks have made at least half of their field goals in three straight games. They are 5-1 when they make at least 50% of their shots.
“It was great. I mean, we saw that tonight. Put the ball in his hands and he led this team to the win. Basically established the tempo, but he also controlled the tempo. He was communicating with his guys throughout the night talking on offense and defense in the locker room.” — Nate McMillan on Dejounte Murray’s leadership on Friday.
The Hawks host the Thunder on Monday night.