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Nuggets Vs. Hawks Score: Denver Leads Atlanta 71-70 Through Three

These are the kind of gritty games that separate the cream of the crop. If the Atlanta Hawks somehow manage to emerge victorious in this one, it will be a statement win.

Al Horford has 16 points and 11 boards and Joe Johnson scored 15, but the Hawks trail the Denver Nuggets 71-70 after three quarters in a physical game at the Pepsi Center.

Wilson Chandler poured in 15 and Kenyon Martin has 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets, who are shooting 48-percent (30-for-62) from the field.

This is the type of game that separates the good teams for those that are made for playoff time. Atlanta is coming off of a game on the West coast less than 23 hours ago. They were without Kirk Hinrich and lost Josh Smith to a sprained right MCL injury at halftime. And Denver has played a rough, relentless physical style that is bound to wear down any team -- more or less one that got into town in the wee hours of the morning.

Nevertheless, the Hawks are still in this game -- despite shooting just 42-percent (28-for-66) from the field and having to work for every bucket. They actually had the lead until the final seconds of the third quarter.

Neither team is willing to give in on this one. One has a feeling it's going to be an epic finish. If you don't have this game on, you might want to turn it on. Pronto.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.