Strong performances by Trae Young and Clint Capela helped the Hawks (13-17) to a 123-115 win over the Nuggets (16-14) Sunday in Atlanta.

Next up, the Hawks will play a back-to-back in Cleveland Tuesday and at home against Boston Wednesday.

Below are some takeaways from the win:

1. Although Lloyd Pierce was originally expected to resume his head coaching duties for this game, he couldn’t attend, per the league’s health and safety protocols, so assistant coach Nate McMillan coached his third straight game. Pierce missed the team’s two games in Boston for the birth of his second child Wednesday, and although he hasn’t tested positive for COVID-19, must test negative for longer before rejoining the team, after flying back to Atlanta on a plane and being in a hospital for the birth. Before the game, McMillan said that Pierce’s family is “doing well.”

Hawks assistant coach Nate McMillan - standing for coach Lloyd Pierce - speaks with the team during a time out against the Denver Nuggets during the second quarter Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Hawks assistant coach Nate McMillan - standing for coach Lloyd Pierce - speaks with the team during a time out against the Denver Nuggets during the second quarter Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

2. Young finished with a double-double of 35 points (10-19 FG, 4-7 from 3-point range, 11-13 FT) and 15 assists, notching his fifth-career 30-point, 15-assist game. This was also the 12th time he’s hit the 15-assist mark — one off his season high. Young made three 3′s in the first 5:10 of the third quarter to help the Hawks work up to a 13-point second-half lead, adding 14 points in the third alone.

3. MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, who’s averaging 27 points per game this season, had three points and was a -2 at halftime. Thanks to Capela’s defensive efforts, the Hawks were able to contain Jokic well — he finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds — but they prevented Jokic from settling into his usual rhythm or from taking over the game. It was a focus, Capela said, to defend Jokic without fouling. Capela finished with just three fouls.

The Nuggets were missing PJ Dozier (right hamstring strain), JaMychal Green (left shoulder sprain) and Paul Millsap (left knee sprain), and were led by Jamal Murray with 30 points.

“He did a solid job of just making him work, pressuring him on the perimeter, in the post, making him score over the top,” McMillan said of Capela’s matchup with Jokic. “We didn’t have to go to a double-team. Clint did a solid job of staying between him and the basket.”

Hawks center Clint Capela (15) successfully fights for a rebound against the Denver Nuggets during the first quarter Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Hawks center Clint Capela (15) successfully fights for a rebound against the Denver Nuggets during the first quarter Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

4. The second unit played well to start the second quarter, helping the Hawks win that period 37-23, and take the lead after trailing by nine and enter halftime up, 64-56. All in all, the bench added 35 points, with Tony Snell posting 12 points (4-4 from 3), Danilo Gallinari contributing 12, rookie Onyeka Okongwu scoring nine and Skylar Mays finishing with two.

5. The Hawks took a 17-point lead in the the fourth quarter — typically, that would be enough cushion to feel comfortable, but Atlanta has struggled to finish games this season. The Nuggets went 7-for-13 from 3 in the fourth to keep it close, but the Hawks made enough timely baskets to maintain the lead, even though the Nuggets cut the deficit to seven with 46 seconds left.

“You do have to make timely baskets and you have to get timely stops and understanding what we’ve been talking about with our group, the fourth quarter, that stretch where we lost a few games in a row, a lot of those games we had leads in the fourth quarter and we didn’t finish the game,” McMillan said. “I thought we did a better job tonight of understanding time and score situations, getting stops when we needed to, making baskets, knocking down shots when they were making a run.”

Stat of the game

3 (the amount of Hawks players with double-doubles: Young, 35 points, 15 assists; Capela, 22 points, 10 rebounds; and John Collins, 12 points, 11 rebounds).

Star of the game

Trae Young (led the Hawks with 35 points and 15 assists, scoring 24 in the second half to help the Hawks seal the win)

Quotable

“The ball was being the energy, and when shots are going in, it’s kind of just a trickle-down effect.” (Young on what helped the Hawks find a rhythm as the game went on)

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