Denver takes the court tonight in search of their first win of the season against a good team Atlanta Hawks team still trying to figure things out completely under their new coach Mike Budenholzer.
The Hawks enter tonight’s contest 2-2, coming off a win in Sacramento on Tuesday night. The game starts the run of four winnable games in a row for the Nuggets before they get into one of their most difficult seven game stretches of the season to end the month.
If Denver wants to win tonight’s game there are three things they must address to have a chance.
How does Denver defend Al Horford? Horford and Millsap aren’t a physically imposing front line but they may possess one of the biggest challenges the Denver bigs will face all year. Both players are very good, and in Horford’s case elite, mid-range shooters who both have the ability to step out to the corner and knock down a three pointer every once and a while. So far this year the Denver bigs have allowed their opponents wide open jumper after wide open jumper. Tuesday’s game against San Antonio started to swing when Boris Diaw knocked down a few jumpers and when Tim Duncan followed suit. In his last two healthy seasons (2010-2011 and last year) Horford shot 51 percent on 464 shots and 44 percent on 336 shots from mid-range respectively. If Denver gives him that shot like they have to opposing big men all season, they will pay for it. To start the game Denver will probably have to play JaVale McGee on Horford or Horford will pose problems in the post,where he is also proficient, with his size advantage on Kenneth Faried. It may be a night where Darrell Arthur logs a lot of minutes.
Can McGee score on Horford in the post? As expected much of the Nuggets offense this year has been throwing the ball into the post and hoping one of the bigs can make a play. At points JaVale McGee has looked very fluid and comfortable in those situations but has had shots just not go down. Tonight he gets a player that is deceptively athletic and long in Horford but McGee will still have a significant advantage due to his extreme length and athleticism. If he can find ways to play over the top of Horford he could potentially have a big night. If not Denver could continue to really struggle in the half court offensively.
Can Denver take advantage of Dennis Schroeder’s suspension? The Hawks will be without rookie point guard Dennis Schroeder tonight after he was suspended one game for punching DeMarcus Cousins in the groin during Tuesday’s game. Schroeder had been a valuable piece of the Atlanta rotation this season playing 18.8 minutes per game off the bench. Schroeder has already shown plenty of potential and has been a very good defensive player in the first five games of his career. The Hawks will probably use Shelvin Mack to soak up some of those minutes tonight and while Mack has been around the league for a few seasons he will make much less of an impact than Schroeder would have. Can Nate Robinson and Andre Miller take advantage of the missing defense and get Denver some easy points off the bench? If they can Denver may be in good shape.
Is there something else you are watching for in tonight’s game? If so please leave it in the comments and stay tuned to Roundball Mining Company for post-game thoughts and reactions.