Flashy assists. Hot 3-point shooting. A major road victory. Friday’s contest against the Atlanta Hawks had all of that and more for the Denver Nuggets, who rode a dominant second quarter to a 133-115 victory. It would be hard to ask for a better start to the second extended road trip of the month for the Nuggets, who completed a season-series sweep of the Hawks in the process.
The Mile High squad quickly jumped out to a 12-3 lead, with 5-of-6 shooting from the field fueling the early success. Although Denver held an early 12-point lead, Atlanta used a 16-2 run over the middle portion of the quarter to take a 19-17 lead. Turnovers hurt the Nuggets in the opening frame, as they committed six that led to eight points for Atlanta. However, with help from the second unit (10 points), Denver was still able to secure a 29-26 advantage after the first 12 minutes.
Neither team could gain an advantage to open the second quarter as the two bench units battled. However, a 9-0 run led by Bones Hyland and Facundo Campazzo helped Denver gain momentum and regain a double-digit lead, which the starters built on in the ensuing minutes. Aaron Gordon helped the Nuggets blow the game open during the second frame, scoring 10 of Denver’s 43 points in the quarter as the Mile High squad took a 72-54 lead into the break. The Nuggets’ offense was lights out in the first 24 minutes, finishing the first half at 58.7 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent (10-of-20) from downtown.
As Denver pushed the lead back up to 20, foul trouble forced Nikola Jokić to the bench just one minute into the second half. Atlanta continued to draw fouls and got in the bonus with nearly eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, which helped reduce the Nuggets’ lead to 15 at 85-70. Through three quarters, the Hawks were 22-of-30 from the charity stripe. Without Jokić for the majority of the quarter, Denver’s offense couldn’t quite maintain its flow from the second quarter but was still able to maintain a significant 106-87 advantage heading into the final frame.
The Nuggets extended the lead to open the fourth quarter as their second unit continued to thrive with Hyland and Campazzo leading the way (more on that later). Atlanta prevented Denver from truly putting the game to bed early, but the Hawks still found themselves down 19 at the midway point of the quarter. Both teams went to their deep reserves to close out Friday’s contest.
Here are three takeaways from Friday’s win.
Campazzo and Hyland drove second unit success
Denver’s second unit has been a topic of conversation throughout the season, as absences have continued to alter the team’s rotation.
Friday night in Atlanta, it was all about the combination of Hyland and Campazzo, who fueled an impressive night from Denver’s bench unit. Hyland dropped a career-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, while Campazzo chipped in with seven points and eight assists, with several of them worthy of a mention on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of the night.
However, it wasn’t just those two doing all the work off the bench. Austin Rivers scored 11 points in his return to action, and Vlatko Čančar scored six points on perfect shooting in his 17 minutes of action. In the end, Denver got 51 points off the bench in the big road victory.
Big second quarter fueled the victory
After a back-and-forth first quarter, the Nuggets used a dominant second frame to gain control of the game and never looked back.
It’s safe to say that when you score 43 points in one quarter, things are going well on the offensive end. Led by Campazzo and Hyland to begin the frame and Gordon to close it, Denver outscored Atlanta 43-28 in the quarter which helped open up a 19-point lead at halftime.
Even with foul trouble hurting Denver in the second half, the Nuggets were able to build on the dominant second quarter and their lead was never seriously threatened as they secured the win.
No cooling down Denver’s offense
133 points. 35 assists. 17-of-38 shooting from beyond the arc.
If you like offense, Friday’s game was for you. Beginning in the second quarter, it felt as if the Nuggets couldn’t miss as they carved up Atlanta’s struggling defense. The points and assists mark new season highs for Denver, who has found a rhythm on the offensive end of the floor in recent weeks.
Despite limited playing time for Jokić (26 minutes), Denver’s offense rarely skipped a beat in Friday’s victory, using effective ball movement and hot 3-point shooting to rack up a big scoring night.
Denver is back in action Sunday night against the Brooklyn Nets (5:30 p.m. MT).