The Nuggets won their 11th straight game at the Pepsi Center and matched Miami’s NBA-best 26-3 home record, but for most of three quarters it wasn’t the cakewalk many expected against a banged-up, tired team playing the final game of a six-game trip.
Eventually, they ran out of gas and bodies, though.
Al Horford scored 18 points for Atlanta, and Josh Smith chipped in 15 points, becoming the 24th player in league history to collect 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocks. His milestone came on a night when many of his teammates were spectators as the Hawks were without Kyle Korver (toe), Zaza Pachulia (sore right Achilles) and DeShawn Stevenson, who skipped the second game of this back-to-back like he normally does because of balky knees.
Then, Jeff Teague (15 points) sprained his left ankle in the first quarter and Ivan Johnson dislocated his left middle finger in the second quarter. Both returned.
Horford’s jumper pulled the Hawks to 63-61 before Lawson hit two free throws and a 26-foot 3-pointer followed by Wilson Chandler’s bucket that made it 70-61 and forced a timeout in the third quarter.
The Hawks stayed with the Nuggets, however, keeping it a game until three straight baskets by Brewer capped a 10-2 run Denver used to build a 96-79 lead.
This was the final game on a six-game swing that began at Milwaukee on Feb. 23 for the Hawks, who won the first three games of the trip but lost the last three.
“Tired both physically and mentally,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said before tip-off of his team’s mood. “It’s been a long road trip. Fatigue does factor into at this point. I’ve got to somehow pull it out of them in this last game. Down in bodies and having to change the lineup the way I do, hopefully a couple of guys will provide energy early. We’ve got to push through it.”
They hung tough, but Brewer’s fastbreak basket at the end of the third quarter gave Denver an 81-73 lead and the Hawks didn’t have a fourth-quarter run in them.
Drew said Korver strained his right big toe in Atlanta’s 99-98 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. He stayed in the game, but soreness set in afterward.
Notes: Anthony Tolliver started for Stevenson and Dahntay Jones started for Korver, who leads the NBA with a .462 shooting percentage on 3-pointers. ... Smith is the ninth active player to compile his milestone statistics with one team. ... The Nuggets have won eight of their last nine home games against Atlanta, including the last six. ... Harris picked up his first foul with just 1.2 seconds left in the first half.