Hawks lose late lead, fall to Nuggets

The Hawks are a work in progress.

They let an eight-point fourth-quarter lead slip away and handed the Nuggets their first win of the season 109-107 Thursday night at Pepsi Arena.

The Hawks started the fourth quarter with a 14-7 run to take their seemingly comfortable 98-90 lead. However, the Nuggets came storming back with a 17-4 run, punctuated by Ty Lawson’s 3-pointer with 58.8 seconds remaining, for a 107-102 advantage.

The Hawks got a basket from Jeff Teague and two free throws from Paul Millsap to close within a point. Lawson made one free throw with 23.1 seconds left. After the Hawks missed twice in the paint, Millsap was fouled and went to the line with 8.2 seconds left. He missed the first free throw and made the second to make it 108-107. Nate Robinson made one of two free throws with 7.2 seconds remaining giving the Hawks one final chance.

Millsap missed a jumper and Al Horford missed a jumper off the rebound and the buzzer sounded on the Hawks.

“I had a small guy on me so I figured I could shoot over the top of him,” said Millsap, who had his best game as a Hawk with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and a block. “I knew it was going to be difficult getting to the basket so I settled for my step-back jump shot. I feel like it was a good shot. It didn’t go in.”

The Hawks (2-3) lost their seventh straight game, and ninth out of 10, in Denver. They finished the west coast road trip 1-2 with last second losses to the Lakers and Nuggets.

“We are competing,” Jeff Teague said. “We are coming out competing hard. We should have won both of those (games). That’s life on the road. You try to be close at the end and try to steal it. We could have in both games.”

Horford (21 points), Kyle Korver (16), Teague (14) and DeMarre Carroll (10) were the other double-digit scorers for the Hawks. Teague had a double-double with 11 assists. Pero Antic and Shelvin Mack, playing the back-up point guard minutes for the suspended Dennis Schroder, each had seven points.

The Nuggets (1-3) were led by Lawson led with 22 points

Korver extended his streak to 78 consecutive games with a 3-pointer, tied for the third-longest in NBA history with Dennis Scott. He is one Michael Adams for second place on the all-time list.

The Hawks took an 84-83 lead into the decisive fourth quarter. The third quarter featured six lead changes and four ties. Millsap had 11 third-quarter points for the Hawks.

The Nuggets took a 54-52 lead into intermission after a back-and-forth first half. The Hawks led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter. The Nuggets led by as many as nine points in the second quarter.

“We got up early, which is something we’ve been talking about,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “And then basketball is a game of runs. Give Denver credit. They made a run at us. … Eventually we are up eight in the fourth quarter and as a group we’ve got to learn how to finish that game and keep the lead. Overall, it’s another learning, another growing, experience. Defensively, we need to put together where we are holding teams under 100 (points) and having a better defensive effort. It’s not for lack of competing or lack of effort.”

The Nuggets went 14 of 25 from 3-point range, including three in the final quarter. Andre Miller buried a long-range shot in front of the Hawks bench with 4:08 remaining that was part of the decisive run.

“It was hectic,” Horford said of the final minutes. “I felt like when we were up six, 98-92, that was going to be a good chance to put them away and we weren’t able to. They kept making tough shots. It was just unfortunate for us.”

The Hawks, who have alternated losses and wins through five games, return home to play the Magic Saturday.