Denver Nuggets 126, Atlanta Hawks 102: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

Aaron Gordon had a debut to remember as the Nuggets largely eased past the Hawks in a thrilling 126-102 win at Ball Arena.

Gordon was productive on both ends and finished the night with 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting. Nikola Jokić showcased once again why he is the frontrunner for MVP, dropping 16 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists on 58.3 shooting. The new-look Nuggets shared the wealth, dishing out 32 assists and seeing six players in double-figures. Trae Young paced the Hawks with 21 points and seven assists on the night.

"I told our guys in the huddle, when we play like this, offensively, I think we're really hard for teams to guard us. When we're locked in on the defensive end, we're rebounding, we become a really tough team to beat, because we're playing at a high level on both ends," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "That was a fun game for us, and I thought we played, from beginning to end, and for the most part, we just played for each other. When we do that, we're a fun team to watch."

The Nuggets will now look forward to performing in front of their fans for the first time in over a year, as they host frontline workers for their game against the Sixers Tuesday night (7 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE). The team will then host the general public starting on April 4 against Gordon’s former team, the Magic.

Here are the takeaways: 

Strong first impression

The overall numbers won’t jump off the box score, but Gordon made his presence felt in his first game as a Nugget.

Denver didn’t call an offensive play for the newly acquired forward, but he was effective in constantly moving and cutting to get his opportunity. For a player who arrived in Denver just before the weekend, he looked like he had been on the team for years.

“A ton of fun. The style of play is amazing. It's just great, man, it's great. It's just a lot of fun to be out there playing with this team," Gordon said.

Defensively, Gordon was also effective in switching and rotated on the Hawks’ top threats on different possession. On one play, he guarded Young before quickly switching to John Collins. That versatility will be invaluable when going up against the better teams in the league. One can imagine how effective Gordon can be as he gets more acclimated to the Nuggets’ defense.

"The main thing, and the best thing that he did, was he accepted the role; he knew why he came here. He knows what he can do," Jokić said. "He knows how he can help and he's doing that. Defensive, offensive, it doesn't matter, he accepted it and he's embracing it. He's going to try to be the best he can be. I think he kind of saw how we played, and he didn't even try to do too much. He saw that if there's an open ball, I'll try to find him. I think it was a really good W for him, a good first one to get.” 

Big bounce-back for JaMychal 

The Nuggets bench scored just seven on Friday night against the Pelicans. They would respond with a 53-point outburst against the Hawks Sunday. JaMychal Green was a big part of the turnaround.

Green shot 7 of 12, including 3 of 5 from three, to rack up a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds for Denver. It was a much-needed big game from Green, who averaged 6.4 points while shooting 26.9 percent from three in his last eight outings. Green was feeling it early, scoring 10 consecutive points on 4 of 5 shooting in the second quarter.

"I feel like I get good looks every game, that's just how our offense is set up, but you have to stay confident. You have those [tough] nights, but you just have to find a way to get out of it,” Green said.  

Green wasn’t the only player to shine off the bench. Paul Millsap had his third-straight strong outing, posting nine points, five rebounds, and three assists. Facundo Campazzo was also effective on both ends and hit two threes to go along with five dimes.

Starters jelled real quick  

If there were any questions about how Gordon would impact the Nuggets’ offense, they were quickly answered Sunday night.

The Nuggets starters all scored in double-figures and were constantly looking for the open man, generating 22 of the team’s 32 dimes. The team was also dominant on the glass, where the Nuggets had a 55-35 margin. In addition to Jokić, Michael Porter Jr. also added 10 rebounds to go along with his 15 points on 6 of 12 shooting. Jamal Murray added 17 points and four assists on 7 of 11 shooting.

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