Ten observations from Hawks loss to Nuggets

Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder returned to the lineup after missing two games with an ankle injury. (Branden Camp/Special to AJC) 

Ten observations from Nuggets 105, Hawks 100 . . .

1. The Hawks played their first home game of the season but once again couldn’t finish. Dennis Schroder’s steal and score got them within 101-98 before Nikola Jokic hit a free-throw line jumper over Dewayne Dedmon. Taurean Prince’s turnover was followed by a Nuggets giveaway in transition, giving the Hawks the ball back down 103-98 with 46.3 seconds left. But Prince missed an open corner 3-pointer and that was pretty much it.

2. Schroder returned to the lineup after a two-game absence because of an ankle injury. “It’s not 100 percent but almost,” Schroder said before the game. “I will give it a shot and see how it goes.” Early in the game Schroder seemed reluctant to attack the basket. He was a bit more aggressive later but not like usual.

Still, Schroder had 20 points on 16 shots with six assists and no turnovers while playing 33 minutes.

“I played him a little bit more than I wanted to, or intended,” Budenholzer said. “He never wants to come out. Considering he hasn’t played for five days and coming off a pretty good sprain, it’s impressive what he did. He wanted to be there for his teammates. He’s a tough guy, for sure.”

3. Paul Millsap got a nice ovation from Hawks fans during pregame introduction. A video tribute played on the scoreboard during the first game stoppage. Millsap glanced up at it a couple of times before acknowledging another ovation. Schroder: “It was weird. To compete against him was something special for everybody. Still that’s our brother but on the court we are competing.”

4. Early in the game there was the familiar sight of the offense running through Millsap, who was getting to his spots but not finishing. After that the Nuggets went to a guard-centric attack that paid big dividends. But the Nuggets went back to Millsap at winning time and he delivered over the final three-plus minutes: bulling his way to the basket for scores over Dedmon and Ersan Ilyasova, and putting in a jump hook over Ilyasova for a 101-94 lead. Millsap’s free throw with 23.7 seconds to go put Denver up 104-98.

Budenholzer on Millsap: “He’s a great player. Ton of respect for him and what he does. Makes winning plays.”

5. In a change, the Hawks prevented an opponent from firing away at the three-point line. Denver’s 20 three-point attempts were the fewest by a Hawks opponent this season.

6. But this was another game in which the Hawks gave up a handful of easy baskets because their defense wasn’t set early in possessions. There were more confused looks among players and frustration from Budenholzer.

7. A few times the Hawks used weave action on the perimeter to get their guards going downhill with Dewayne Dedmon rolling to the basket. The results were mixed because of imprecise passes, late decision-making by ball handlers and shaky hands by Dedmon.

8. A night after he had little (or maybe even a negative) offensive impact at Chicago, Taurean Prince had it going early against the Nuggets. His three-pointers were falling (3-for-5) and he used that threat to get to the basket against aggressive close-outs.

Budenholzer: “It’s kind of a great bounce-back game for Taurean. I think he probably was a little bit frustrated and wanted to come out and have a better game. He certainly did it. His dive and his bounce and his ability to get to the paint and finish. Now the challenge for him and young guys is let’s do it again Sunday.”

9. John Collins had probably the worst game of his young career. He didn’t seem to have the same springiness early in the game. Collins’ energy was better in the second half but he appeared frustrated by his inability to finish some easy chances around the basket. He played a season-low 14 minutes.

10. Budenhozler played lots of unusual lineup combinations, including a Malcolm Delaney-Isaiah Taylor backcourt in the second quarter. Emmanuel Mudiay had his way with Taylor while scoring 10 points in the period.

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