ATLANTA–Nikola Jokic had a huge game, a career-high 47 points to lead the Nuggets to a 123-115 win over the Hawks on Monday night at State Farm Arena.
Entering the second quarter trailing by two, the Nuggets tightened their defense on the perimeter and made it difficult for the Hawks to drive into the lane. The Hawks shot 47.6 percent in the first quarter but slipped to 41 percent in the second quarter with the increased pressure on the wings.
The Nuggets would go on a 14-3 run jumped started by Barton III’s eight points in the quarter and would take their largest lead of the night at 49-39. Denver went into the break up 64-56, but the Hawks would respond in the second half.
Trae Young finished with 29 points and Kevin Huerter had 22 for the Hawks.
Atlanta went on a 9-2 run midway in the third quarter with Huerter leading the way with three-consecutive triples from downtown cutting the deficit to 71-69. But Barton III and Jokić had other plans both hitting late buckets in the third to give the Nuggets a five-point lead entering the final 12 minutes of the contest.
Jokic surpassed his previous career-high of 41 points with a putback that gave the Nuggets a 114-109 lead with 3:14 remaining on the clock. Jamal Murray followed with a turnaround jumper and Barton put back his own miss to put Denver up 118-109 with 1:57 remaining.
“I don’t think you have to tell Nikola (to be aggressive),” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “You could see early on that (Hawks center) Alex Len was kind of giving him dare shots, and they dared him to 47.”