Hawks fall to Nuggets, go winless on 4-game West Coast trip

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young reacts after being called for a foul against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Credit: David Zalubowski

Credit: David Zalubowski

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young reacts after being called for a foul against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER — The Hawks (4-9) lost steam in a 105-96 loss to the Nuggets Friday in Denver (8-4), which means they come away winless on their West Coast road trip.

The Hawks return for a five-game homestand and will face the defending champion Bucks Sunday at State Farm Arena.

Below are some takeaways from the loss:

1. Finally, the Hawks’ four-game, nine-day West Coast road trip comes to a close, though the results may have made it feel longer than it was in reality. Granted, they played four tough teams, but they come away 0-4. They had a 12-point lead entering the fourth quarter but lost in Phoenix Saturday, had a four-point lead at halftime but lost in Golden State Monday as Steph Curry dominated and lost in Utah Tuesday, unable to put a complete game together. They couldn’t muster a win in Denver and are now on a six-game losing streak.

“We’ve got to go home and make up some ground, it’s as simple as that,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said.

2. This was an up-and-down game, but the Hawks battled back each time it seemed the Nuggets would pull away — until the end of the third quarter, that is. They found themselves in a 10-point hole entering the fourth quarter after Trae Young picked up his fourth foul with five minutes to play in the third, and was benched with the Hawks down three. He sat until the 9:48 mark of the fourth and came back in with the Hawks trailing by 14. Although they cut it to nine a few times, the Nuggets got some timely baskets to stay in front. Neither team shot well from 3-point range, with the Hawks going 5-for-28 (17.9%) and the Nuggets going 10-for-35 (28.6%), but the Hawks desperately needed shots to fall in that fourth quarter to have a chance at a comeback.

“We couldn’t make shots,” McMillan said. “We were doing a good job of kicking the ball out to the perimeter, I thought we had some open looks. We had them in scramble situations, but couldn’t knock down shots. When it comes to the fourth quarter, their timely possessions that you need to score, we didn’t and they did.”

Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, left, confers with center Clint Capela, right, the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

3. Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle soreness) and De’Andre Hunter (right wrist strain) both missed the Utah game but were available to play and started in Friday’s game. However, Hunter looked off, going 1-for-6 from the field with two rebounds and four fouls in 21 minutes, and ended up leaving the game in the fourth quarter with right wrist soreness. McMillan said Hunter was sore entering the game and his wrist didn’t feel right when he got a shot up in the second half. The Hawks certainly missed Hunter’s production. Bogdanovic added 10 points, three assists and two rebounds, with one steal and one turnover.

4. A second unit of Delon Wright, Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter, Danilo Gallinari and Gorgui Dieng closed the first quarter, but McMillan replaced Dieng with John Collins to start the second quarter. Down seven, Collins thrived with that group and led the way as it went on a 13-2 run to take a 38-34 lead. Collins finished with 26 points (11-22 FG, 1-6 from 3, 3-5 FT), nine rebounds, one assist and two blocks, and was a plus-two, the only starter that had a positive plus-minus. As teams play smaller, the fit with Collins and Gallinari works well, McMillan said postgame.

5. Overall, though, the bench struggled, contributing 14 points total (compared to 31 bench points for Denver). Young led Atlanta with 30 points and nine assists, with five turnovers, and Collins continues to excel, but the Hawks needed other guys to get going, as well. Reddish had eight points off the bench and Huerter, Gallinari and Dieng each had two points.

Stat of the game: 17.9% (what the Hawks shot from 3-point range, as they struggled shooting)

Star of the game: Nikola Jokic (finished with a triple-double for the Nuggets with 22 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists)

Quotable: “I see a team that underachieved. ... We’ve just got to look in the mirror and understand what each of us needs to do to win.” (Collins on evaluating the Hawks going 0-4 on their road trip, with the goal of going at least 2-2)