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The Nuggets were 9-4 entering tonight’s matchup with the Hawks, sporting the eighth-best offense in the league, but even Michael Malone knew that Denver’s attack hasn’t operated at the level it did last season.
“We are playing very slow, stagnant, predictable basketball,” Denver’s coach said earlier this week.
A surprising change to the Nuggets’ starting lineup jump-started Denver’s attack. It was all the Nuggets needed to ease past the Hawks 138-93 and end their four-game losing streak.
Backup point guard Monte Morris, who has seen his playing time increase over the course of the season and played key fourth-quarter minutes in Denver’s loss Tuesday to Houston, started at point guard as Jamal Murray moved to the bench. As he’s done throughout the Nuggets’ previous 13 games. Morris ran Denver’s offense with ease as the Nuggets scored the first 13 points of the game and raced out to a 35-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Denver led by 16 points at the half and soon stretched its advantage to 19 points midway through the third quarter. The Nuggets hit the 100-point mark at the 3:11 mark of the third and led by 36 heading into the fourth. Denver emptied its bench at the 6:38 mark of the fourth and cruised to its 10th win of the year.
The Nuggets posted their best offensive numbers of the year Thursday. Denver scored a season-high 138 points, shot 56.4 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from three.
Playing with the second unit for the first time since he was benched on Jan. 27 last season for a violation of team rules, Murray scored 14 points on 4-10 shooting. All of Murray’s points came in the first half. Morris finished with eight points, two assists and zero turnovers.
Nikola Jokic added 12 points nine rebounds and seven assists. Juancho Hernangomez scored a team-high 25 points to go with eight rebounds. Hernangomez finished a team-high plus-46. Paul Millsap added 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
With the loss, the Hawks dropped their sixth straight and fell to 3-12 on the season. Denver improved to 10-5 with a difficult three-game road trip where the Nuggets will visit the Pelicans, Bucks and Timberwolves on the horizon.