Game Preview: What to Watch for in the Nuggets Game Against Atlanta
January’s month of 10 home games continues on Wednesday with the third contest, against the Atlanta Hawks, the team with the worst record in the NBA. This is the second meeting between the Nuggets and Hawks; the Nuggets won in Atlanta back on Oct. 27.
This is the last of a five-game Western Conference road trip for the Hawks, and they’ve lost all four to this point. Meanwhile, the Nuggets are riding a two-game home winning streak – and have wins in three of the last four games at the Pepsi Center. Although, overall, the Nuggets enter Wednesday’s game looking to snap a two-game losing streak. They have not lost three straight games all season long.
So how do the Nuggets avoid a third straight loss and get back on track with a win over Atlanta? Start with these things…
Keep Atlanta off the offensive glass: Part of this is due to the Hawks missing a lot of shots, but they are a formidable team when it comes to grabbing offensive rebounds and collecting second chance points. They are averaging 14.2 offensive rebounds per game in the last seven games, and soaked up 19 in in a one-point loss at the Clippers on Monday. The Hawks are averaging 17 second chance points in that same span, and had 22 second chance points against the Clippers. And the rebounds come from everywhere – Erysan Ilyasova, Miles Plumlee, John Collins and Kent Bazemore just to name a few. The Nuggets must identify Hawks and get bodies on them when the shot goes up, and finish defensive stops with the rebound.
Wall off the lane: The Hawks try and make a living in getting to the rim and are a relentless team in driving the basketball. Atlanta averages 49.1 drives per game, which, going into Tuesday night’s games ranked sixth in the NBA. Point guard Dennis Schroder is as quick as they come and he leads the attack, which puts a ton of pressure on defenses. Over 40 percent of his shot attempts come within 10 feet of the basket, so his aim is clear. One-on-one defense is key, and help defense to keep Atlanta ball-handlers out of the lane is a must.
Keep Jokić on a roll: The Nuggets prioritized getting Nikola Jokić the ball and running a big chunk of offense through him in their game at Golden State on Monday, which resulted in his best overall game in a while – a triple-double of 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. And they largely kept him below the 3-point line, which was key. Three-point attempts had accounted for more than a third of his shot attempts in the two games prior, but Jokić was 1-for-1 from the 3-point line against the Warriors. The goal is keeping Jokić in this aggressive space.
INJURY REPORT: Paul Millsap (wrist) is out of tonight’s game.
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.