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Nuggets Find Rhythm in the Fourth, Notch First Road Win of Season

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider

By Christopher Dempsey, Nuggets Insider

ATLANTA, GA. – Getting a road win in a city where it’s been painstakingly difficult through the years took the Nuggets doing something they’ve rarely done in Atlanta – grind out every possession and complete all of the detail items needed to walk out victorious.

They did just that on Friday night.

The Nuggets were streak busters in a 105-100 victory over the Hawks at Philips Arena, topping the century mark for the second time this season. The win snapped a four-game losing streak to the Hawks and a two-game skid overall. And it was powered by the detail items – defense, bench play and taking care of the basketball. It was the first road win this season for the Nuggets.

“Great to get our first road win of the year,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We came into this game feeling we needed this game, even though it’s early in the season.”

The fourth quarter was the decider after the two teams traded punches for most of the night, leaving the Nuggets with a four-point, 75-71 advantage going into the final frame. And yet, the Nuggets found another gear in the fourth, led by the heady and effective play of point guard Emmanuel Mudiay.

The third-year guard controlled the game on the offensive end, putting the Nuggets offense in position to succeed in directing traffic, and then supplementing that with scoring himself. Mudiay put in a season-high 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, and did not leave the game after entering in the 4:21 mark in the third quarter.

The Nuggets pushed the lead to as many as nine points, and had to hold on from there. Atlanta got a few timely buckets, and with just over a minute left got a layup by Dennis Schroder to close their deficit to three, but the Nuggets answered. Nikola Jokic nailed a jumper with 1:00 to play to put the Nuggets up five. That proved to be a lead that stood up. They held off the Hawks to get the victory, just their ninth win in 43 games in Atlanta.

"I thought our guys stepped up and made big plays down the stretch,” Malone said. “I thought Emmanuel was fantastic. Paul (Millsap) had a stretch where he scored three or four baskets in a row, and we made enough plays on both ends of the floor to come out with the win.”

Hot shooting in the final frame was key. The Nuggets made 13-of-20 shots (65 percent) in the fourth after going 29-of-71 (40.8 percent) in the first three quarters. Jokic led the Nuggets with 18 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. Gary Harris and Will Barton both had 18 points as well, and Millsap finished with 16 points in his return to Atlanta.

Christopher Dempsey: and @chrisadempsey on Twitter