The Atlanta Hawks host the Denver Nuggets in what appears to be a very interesting matchup. The Nuggets have a longer injury list than the Hawks but only one starter, Paul Millsap is on it. They have a shortened rotation and this could hurt the team which is playing the last of a four-game road trip.
The Nuggets lost some really good defensive talent over the offseason. Jerami Grant took his talents to Detroit and has turned into their prime offensive player while also being their lockdown defender on the wing. They also lost defensive stalwart Torrey Craig to the Milwaukee Bucks
As a result, the Nuggets started the season really poorly, losing four of their first five games. They have got it together as the season has gone on behind the play of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, the former is almost averaging a triple-double on the season.
Atlanta Hawks key No. 1) Attack the paint
As a result of losing Grant and Craig, the Nuggets have gone from having the sixth-best defense inside the arc to having the second-worst defense in the league. Teams who can penetrate and score inside with pace tend to succeed against the Nuggets.
The other problem for the Nuggets inside the paint is they do not have a true shot-blocker. Jokic is averaging 0.7 blocks per game and Michael Porter is averaging 1.1 per game. As a team, they are 24th in the league with only 4.4 blocks per game.
Atlanta Hawks key No. 2) Defend the 3-ball
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Despite all the injuries the Atlanta Hawks have had to endure this season they have the second-best perimeter defense in the NBA. They are allowing their opponents to shoot just 34.2 percent from deep, despite losing the likes of De’Andre Hunter for an extended period.
On the flip side, the Nuggets have the eight best 3-point shooting percentage, shooting the ball at 38.2 percent as a team. It is the combination of Jokic, Porter, Murray, and Will Barton who do most of the damage of those who are active. Both Millsap and JaMychal Green who are listed as out, shoot the 3-ball at over 41.0 percent.
Atlanta Hawks key No. 3) Clint Capela vs Nikola Jokic
For the first time in a very long time, the Hawks have a true force at the center position in Clint Capela. He is leading the NBA in rebounding and is third in blocks per game. His defense has changed the way that teams play against the Hawks.
His opponent for the night is Jokic who, as mentioned earlier, is almost averaging a triple-double on the season. His play has him as a serious contender for MVP honors this season and if he can be slowed down then the Nuggets become easier to beat.