Denver’s Jamal Murray will try to build on his record-setting performance when the Nuggets make their only visit to Atlanta to play the Hawks on Sunday.
Murray is fresh from a career-high 50-point performance in Friday’s 120-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a timely performance since it helped the Nuggets end a two-game losing streak and gives the team a chance to break even on its four-game East Coast road trip.
The Hawks have been struggling, losing five of their last six games and splitting a pair in Boston earlier this week. Atlanta got behind by 25 at halftime and trailed by 27 in the third quarter against the Celtics on Friday before storming back to within nine points inside five minutes, only to lose 121-109.
Denver and Atlanta teams split two games last season, each winning on the road.
Murray’s scoring outburst even overshadowed a triple-double by Nikola Jokic. Murray became the first player in NBA history to score at least 50 points without trying a free throw. He shot 84 percent (21-for-25) from the floor, a number surpassed only by Wilt Chamberlain’s 87 percent in 1967 among those who scored 50-plus. Murray was 8-for-10 on 3-point tries.
“I was just making my shots. Once I saw a few go down, I just took off from there,” Murray said. “It’s kind of cool to make history. That’s a cool stat.”
Denver coach Michael Malone said, “I’ve seen a lot of 50-point games. To do it as efficiently as he did it is really remarkable. That’s an incredible stat line.”
And hardly anyone noticed Jokic, who had 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. It was his seventh triple-double and his league-leading 26th double-double. Jokic just became the first Denver player voted to start the NBA All-Star Game since Carmelo Anthony in 2011.
The Hawks have had troubles on defense during their stretch of eight losses in 10 games. Falling behind by 27 on Friday against the Celtics only compounded that.
“When you get down that big to a good team like that, it’s tough to come back,” admitted Trae Young.
Atlanta was beaten soundly in the paint, where Boston outscored the Hawks 66-52, despite 24 points from Clint Capela. The Celtics shot 55.6 percent from the field and 40 percent on 3-pointers.
“(The Celtics) were aggressive attacking the paint,” said Atlanta assistant coach Nate McMillan, who led the team in coach Lloyd Pierce’s absence. “And we never established that we could keep this team in front of us, which puts a lot of pressure on Clint at the basket.”
Pierce missed the two-game trip to Boston due to the birth of his second child. He will return to the bench on Sunday.
Young scored 31 points on Friday and has scored 30-plus 10 times this season. He has averaged 31.3 points over the last three games.
Atlanta remains hopeful that veteran Danilo Gallinari will emerge from his shooting slump. The former Nugget is shooting just 39.7 percent from the floor this season.
The Nuggets likely will be without Paul Millsap, who sat out his third straight game with a sprained left knee. They also might not have JaMychal Green, who hurt his left shoulder while running through a pick early in the first quarter and did not return.
–Field Level Media