The Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets will attempt to sweep their three-game homestand on Saturday when they face the Atlanta Hawks, who have won two straight on their challenging five-game road swing.
The Nuggets are coming off a 134-117 win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday. The Hawks followed up a 32-point win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday with a 115-108 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday, improving their mark to 1-2 on the current trek.
This will be the second meeting of the season between Atlanta and Denver. The Hawks won 117-109 in Atlanta on Dec. 2 despite the injury-prompted absence of starters Trae Young, John Collins and De’Andre Hunter. The Nuggets, who swept the series last season, have won the teams’ past two matchups in Denver.
The Western Conference-leading Nuggets went 12-4 in January, the best record in the NBA, and earned Michael Malone the conference Coach of the Month honor for the second time in his career. Denver had a nine-game winning streak in January but has won just three of its past six.
The Nuggets are led by Nikola Jokic, who produced his NBA-leading 17th triple-double of the season against Golden State.
Jokic had his second career game with at least 22 points, 14 rebounds and 16 assists. He has shot 50 percent or better from the field in 39 straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA this season and the longest of his career.
The 27-year-old center is averaging 25 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.1 assists. He fell two assists shy of a triple-double in the first meeting with Atlanta this season.
“He’s good at everything,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “Literally every time he has the ball, everybody is a threat. Your entire defense has to be engaged.”
Jamal Murray is coming off a 33-point game against the Warriors, the fifth time he has scored 30-plus points this season. Murray is averaging 19.8 points.
“Jamal, his greatness is on full display,” Malone said.
Atlanta was able to break a six-game series losing streak against the Jazz on Friday. The Hawks led by as many as 22 points and turned back a fourth-quarter challenge, finally icing it on a 3-pointer by Hunter with 22 seconds left. Hunter scored a season-high 26 points.
“They were crazy for leaving me open,” said Hunter, who hit 10 of 15 shots from the floor. “That’s what was going through my head.”
Young continues to put up big numbers, including the 27 he scored against the Jazz in his first game after learning he wasn’t selected as an All-Star.
Young, who is averaging 27 points and 9.9 assists, took up the slack on a rare off night from Dejounte Murray, who made only 5 of 16 from the floor and was held to 13 points. Murray scored 34 points against Denver in the first contest while Young was out because of right shoulder soreness.
With the win in Salt Lake City, Atlanta improved to 14-15 on the road and leads the NBA in road scoring at 117 points per game. The Hawks are 10-9 against teams from the Western Conference, including 6-5 on the road.
“We played great on both ends again,” Hunter said. “They made some shots and we just kept playing. They made a little comeback in the fourth quarter, but we kept playing. That’s all.”