It's hard enough to make that arduous trip to Denver from the West Coast on the short side of a back-to-back. You lose an hour due to the time zone change. The airport is a zillion miles away from downtown. You are coping with an altitude change. It's even harder to pull of that feat if you are shorthanded.
Josh Smith left after two quarters with a sprained right MCL injury and Kirk Hinrich did not play due to a right calf injury. They could only watch as the Nuggets posted a 100-90 win over a depleted Hawks team at the Pepsi Center on Monday.
J.R. Smith had 19 points and Raymond Felton added 16 for Denver, which notched its sixth straight win over the Hawks in the Mile High City.
Joe Johnson poured in 22 points and Al Horford had 21 and 16 boards for Atlanta, which connected on just 2-of-19 shots from behind the 3-point line.
This one was rough, tough and physical. Atlanta established eight or nine point leads throughout the fist half. But each time the Hawks would establish some sort of momentum, the Nuggets -- much like your pesky kid brother -- would weasel their way back into the game.
Atlanta took a one point lead into the break and trailed by one going into the fourth, but ultimately, the deep Nuggets team had that extra something to push their team over the finish line. Atlanta traded baskets with Denver to open the final frame, posting a 74-73 lead on Horford's jumper with 10:49 left. But Denver scored 27 of the game's last 43 points to muscle their way to the win.
Unfortunately, the loss may not be the only thing that lingers for the Hawks. Atlanta also lost Josh Smith in the second quarter. The Hawks forward banged knees with the Nuggets' J.R. Smith with 7:45 left in the frame and left the floor for the Atlanta bench.
He returned to the game with just under three minutes left in the second as Denver made a push, but was reevaluated at the break. He was kept out of the rest of the game for precautionary reasons and will be reevaluated when the Hawks return home on Tuesday.
Marvin Williams had 13 points and Jamal Crawford added 10 off the bench for Atlanta, which finished their seven-game road trip with a 3-4 record.