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Nuggets wear out Hawks in fourth quarter

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- Corey Brewer bristled at the idea that his 22-point night was helped by leaking out on the fast break.

He seemed to be constantly beating the Atlanta Hawks down the court during the Denver Nuggets' 104-88 win on Monday night, but he said it was the result of hustle.

"Man, there ain't no cherry picking!" he said. "You've got to watch. I start on defense. I'm just fast. I'll leave it at that."

Brewer's two steals and hawking defense were his best arguments, but the way the Nuggets ran the court made it looked like they were only interested in offense.

Denver ran the tired, depleted Hawks off the court in the fourth quarter, turning a close game into an easy victory.

"We hung around, but it was very overwhelming," Hawks center Al Horford said. "They were good in the fast break."

Ty Lawson had 18 points and eight assists and Kenneth Faried pitched in with 10 points and 13 rebounds for Denver, which is 22-7 since Jan. 1. Denver has won 11 straight at Pepsi Center and improved to 26-3 at home, tying Miami for the top home record in the NBA. The Nuggets have also won six straight home games against Atlanta.

"It's the energy, the altitude, but we're also jelling as a team," Brewer said of the home-court domination. "We're starting to play together and we know each other a little bit."

The Hawks limp back to Atlanta after losing the last three on the six-game road trip. They played the hot Nuggets with a shortened bench after two starters were ruled out before the game.

Kyle Korver sat with a sprained right big toe suffered in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, and Zaza Pachulia didn't play because of a sore right Achilles' tendon.

"We didn't have all the guys who impact the game so much," Atlanta's Josh Smith said. "In the fourth quarter, they were able to string some makes together. They're a fast-breaking team and as soon as a shot's missed it seems like there are already two guys already back for a layup."

Despite not having Pachulia and Korver, the NBA leader in 3-point percentage, the Hawks hung tough.

Atlanta took advantage when Denver turned the ball over three times at the start of the third quarter to pull to 63-61.

Denver scored the next nine points -- seven by Lawson -- to stretch the lead to 11, but the Hawks got within four in the final minute before trailing 81-73 heading into the fourth quarter.

"We had two bad plays down the stretch and they pulled it to eight," Horford said. "Once you do that, it's kind of hard on the road."

Horford had 18 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Hawks. Smith had 15 points to surpass 10,000 for his career.

"It's a blessing to get that mark," Smith said. "Just got to keep working hard and hopefully I can accomplish more things in this league."

The Nuggets put it away early in the fourth quarter. Brewer scored eight points and Denver used a 10-1 run to lead 96-79 with 5:26 left. The Hawks never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.

The Hawks know they missed an opportunity to have a winning road trip after losses to Dallas, the Lakers and Denver, but they're not disappointed with finishing 3-3.

"I told the guys after the Utah game we had a chance to have an exceptional road trip," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "After the game down in Dallas, the mind-set was we still could have an exceptional road trip. It went from exceptional to have a great road trip, and then coming into tonight we had a chance to have a great road trip. We finished 3-3, so for us, .500 basketball, that's a good road trip."

NOTES: Smith became the 24th player in NBA history -- and sixth active player -- with 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocked shots. He is the ninth player to do it with one team. ... Pachulia tested his sore Achilles' in warm-ups before the game, but it was determined he couldn't go. ... Lawson was named the Western Conference player of the week after averaging 21 points and seven assists in three games, all wins. Since Jan. 13, the guard is averaging 20.8 points, 7.5 assists and 1.64 steals in 22 games. "He deserves it, he's been great," Denver coach George Karl said. "It's fun to watch him play. Everyone's seeing a kid gaining confidence." ... Atlanta's Jeff Teague entered Monday's game needing 11 assists to reach 1,000 for his career. He finished with eight. ... JaVale McGee had five blocked shots for Denver.
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