After starting the fourth quarter with a flourish, the Atlanta Hawks roared down the court with a chance to tie the game. Josh Smith fired up a quick 3-pointer, Atlanta got the ball back and they turned it over. It was all downhill from there.
Nene Hilario posted a game-high 20 points and swatted four shots in the Denver Nuggets' 102-87 demolition of the Hawks on Wednesday night at Philips Arena.
J.R. Smith and Arron Afflalo had 15 each for Denver, which won for just the third time in 21 games and seventh time overall in Georgia's capital city.
Denver controlled the paint. They controlled the boards and ultimately, they controlled the game.
The Nuggets had zero problems penetrating into the paint and posting up shots or kicking it out and draining an uncontested shot. Atlanta on the other hand, pretty much did what they always do in losing situations -- went to the jump shot and when jumpers weren't falling -- went back to the jump shot.
It didn't work.
"We have to establish ourselves in the low post," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "That's what I told them in halftime. We have to drive and kick the basketball. We did not do that. We settled."
The Hawks second unit whittled down an 11 point deficit down to 72-69 with 10:07 left in the final quarter on a bucket by Zaza Pachulia and looked poised to make a game of it after former Hawk Al Harrington missed a shot on the other end of the floor. But Smith jacked up a quick transition 3-pointer and turned over the ball. Afflalo got the Nuggets back on track with a 3-pointer.
"We continued to shoot from the perimeter," Drew said. "That played into their hands."
The Nuggets never looked back.
Pachulia had 19 points and 10 boards to lead an Atlanta team that shot just 42-percent (34-for-82) from the field. Denver connected on 53-percent (39-for-73) of its chances. The Nuggets also won the battle of the boards, 43-35.
It was a forgettable night for the Hawks starting five, which shot just 32-percent (16-for-50) in the game. Joe Johnson, who posted 36 on Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks scored just 12 points on a miserable 4-for-13 night from the feel. So much for that lucky headband.
Josh Smith lead all starters with 13 points, but was 4-for-16 from the field. He tried a bunch of jumpers, but didn't connect on any of them.
Curiously, the ball was rarely put in the hands of Al Horford. He had just five shots on the night. Horford had 21 points and 16 boards the last time these two teams met.
Wilson Chandler scored 14 points and Kenyon Martin added 12 for the Nuggets, who swept the season series with Atlanta.