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NBA: Hawks out to regain home-court advantage vs. Nuggets

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The Atlanta Hawks will try to turn around their recent home-court woes when they host the Denver Nuggets on Friday.

Atlanta, which has lost five straight at home, will be beginning a three-game homestand. It will be the first leg of a three-game road trip for Denver.

Both teams played Wednesday, with Atlanta beating Orlando 111-99 for its fifth straight road win, and with Denver losing 124-107 to Minnesota.

Atlanta was one of the league’s most successful home teams last season during its run to the Eastern Conference final. And that continued to start the season, when the Hawks won eight of their first nine home games, before losing their last five.

“It doesn’t happen because you had that success last year,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “You have to build that chemistry. You have to establish play on both ends of the floor. Regardless of the success last year, we’ve got to build that all over again.”

The Hawks seemed to avoid what could have been a major injury on Wednesday night when Trae Young returned after being hit in the head with an elbow by Orlando’s Cole Anthony midway through the third quarter. Young’s head snapped back, and he had to be taken to the locker room for examination. He returned midway in the fourth quarter in time to help the Hawks keep the Magic at bay.

Young tried to downplay the accident and indicated he would be OK.

“My neck has been a little sore and then getting that elbow in the face kind of turned my neck,” he said. “I wouldn’t say whiplash, but it made my neck feel kind of weird. I just had to go to the back and get it rubbed out. That’s pretty much all it is — it’s sore, but it’s all right.”

Young still scored 28 points in the win and helped the Hawks end a two-game losing streak. But they still managed only 18 points in the fourth quarter, an area of ongoing concern for Atlanta the past few weeks.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic has a history of success against Atlanta. In 13 games he is averaging 17.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. Jokic has been on a tear over the past 10 games, averaging 27.2 points, 13.5 rebounds and 9.0 assists.

Jokic had a triple-double on Wednesday. It was the 63rd of his career and moved him past James Harden for seventh-most in NBA history.

Denver has been dealing with health and injury issues. Austin Rivers has missed eight straight games because of COVID-19 protocols and JaMychal Green has missed two games with a right ankle sprain. The Nuggets may be without Markus Howard with a left knee injury on Wednesday against Minnesota. He was injured while scrambling for a loose ball in the fourth quarter and had to be helped to the locker room.

The thin roster might bear part of the blame for the defensive troubles. The Nuggets allowed their second-highest number of points this season against Minnesota.

“We, as a group, need to be better defensively and hopefully we will,” Jokic said.

This will be the second and final meeting between the two clubs this season. The Nuggets won the first game 105-96 on Nov. 12 in Denver.

–Field Level Media

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