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Nuggets set sights on Hawks as they search for first victory

Atlanta next up as Denver closes three-game homestand



With 79 games left on the schedule, there is no such thing as a “must-win” game.

But a victory sure would do wonders for the Denver Nuggets.

After falling to 0-3 with a loss the San Antonio Spurs, the Nuggets will look to give Brian Shaw his first win as a head coach when they face the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night at Pepsi Center.

“Every game right now is already feeling like a must-win,” Shaw said light-heartedly Wednesday. “Obviously we’d like to have a win – or some wins – under our belt. This isn’t how anybody would’ve envisioned it being. We’ve just got to keep plugging away. We’re working hard, teaching, watching film seeing our mistakes.”

During a lengthy film session Wednesday, Shaw reiterated the need to push the tempo at home and minimize turnovers that have plagued Denver in two of its first three games. The Nuggets committed 19 turnovers in their opener at Sacramento and added 23 miscues against San Antonio.

“We almost have to play a perfect game to get a victory,” Shaw said. “We’re definitely doing some better things. We got off to a better start and guys shot the ball better (against the Spurs). I thought our defense played good enough to win. Our offense let us down.”

Denver shot the ball well from 3-point range against San Antonio but went cold in the fourth quarter. Shaw pointed to simple mistakes such as poor spacing, weak screens and the lack of movement when the ball went into the low post.

“I told them, ‘Great things are accomplished by the perfection of minor details.’ We have to be a team that does the minor details,” Shaw said. “There’s no other way around it. If we don’t, we’ll keep having results like we’ve had the first three games.”

Shaw and his coaching staff have been flooding the players with information since Oct. 1. The teaching methods include video, written scouting reports, verbal scouting reports, practices and walkthroughs.

Sensing information overload, Shaw tried to let them freelance a bit in practice. The idea was to play on instinct more than worrying about set plays.

“If we get a defensive rebound I don’t want us to get into a play,” Shaw said. “I want to run down and try to get a layup or first good available shot. The only time I want play calls is after a dead ball or taking the ball out of the net and the defense is back.”

Despite public perception, pushing the pace remains a priority for Shaw. Throughout training camp, one of Denver’s mantras was “Wear ‘em down, wear ‘em out.” Ideally, the starting unit should set the tone with their effort, energy and execution, with little to no dropoff when the reserves enter the game.

After leading the NBA in fast-break points last season, the Nuggets are 14th through three games. “We’ve been tired,” Shaw said. “I don’t think we’re out of shape. I don’t know if it’s nerves or adrenaline. I don’t know what it is. We’ve been getting tired quick.”

Denver’s depth has been somewhat depleted by the absence of forwards Wilson Chandler (strained hamstring) and Danilo Gallinari (knee). Chandler hopes to return to practice on Sunday and is targeting Monday at Utah for his season debut.


HAWKS AT NUGGETS


WHEN:
7 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver.
TV; RADIO: Altitude; 104.3 FM, AM-950

PROBABLE STARTERS
DENVER (0-3)

F Jordan Hamilton
F Kenneth Faried
C JaVale McGee
G Randy Foye
G Ty Lawson

ATLANTA (2-2)
F DeMarre Carroll
F Paul Millsap
C Al Horford
G Kyle Korver
G Jeff Teague

INJURY REPORT
DENVER:
Wilson Chandler (hamstring strain) and Danilo Gallinari (knee) are out.
ATLANTA: Lou Williams (knee) and Gustavo Ayon (shoulder) are out.

SERIES NOTES
Overall this series has been very close since 2003-04, with Denver going 11-8 . . . The Nuggets have won eight of the last nine games in Denver against the Hawks . . . Before Denver swept the season series in both 2011-12 (1-0) and 2010-11 (2-0), the teams had split 1-1 in each of the five previous seasons . . . Only one Hawk has ever topped 40+ against the Nuggets – that being John Drew with 50 on 12/30/78 in Atlanta . . . Only once since joining the NBA have the Nuggets failed to record a steal in a game, and that was at Atlanta on 10/21/78.