Paul Millsap made the All-Star team in all four seasons he spent with the Atlanta Hawks. Millsap looks to remind the Hawks of his prowess on Friday, when he returns to Atlanta as a member of the Denver Nuggets.
Millsap averaged a career-best 18.1 points last season and parlayed his latest stellar campaign into a three-year, $90 million contract with the Nuggets. The 32-year-old is averaging 15.5 points in four games with his new club and would like to have a breakout game against his former team. “It’s always an emotional time when you first come back to your old team and you see a lot of old guys, but then you’re competing against them on another team,” Millsap told reporters. “It’s going to be different, but I’ll try to embrace it as much as possible.” The Hawks are struggling without their former star and went 1-4 on a season-opening road trip that ended with Thursday’s 91-86 loss at Chicago.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Altitude2 (Denver), FSN Southeast (Atlanta)
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (1-3): Denver has dropped its last two games and trailed by 23 points at halftime in Wednesday’s 110-93 road setback against Charlotte. Millsap scored a season-low eight points and the Nuggets shot just 38.4 percent in the loss as coach Michael Malone was peeved with his squad’s lack of effort. “My message is simple, I’m going to start our group and if I see guys that don’t want to play or compete, I’m going to put guys out there that are going to play hard and compete and at least give us a chance,” Malone told reporters. “If you’re going to go down, at least go down fighting. That’s my nature, and I want that to be my team’s nature.”
ABOUT THE HAWKS (1-4): Point guard Dennis Schroder (ankle) hopes to return after a two-game absence following a strong start during which he averaged 23.3 points and 6.7 assists over three games. Backup shooting guard Marco Belinelli scored 23 points and made five 3-pointers in the loss to Chicago to improve to 14-of-28 from beyond the arc. Starting small forward Kent Bazemore scored 16 points versus Chicago and had this to say about the club: “It’s going to be a tough year, but if we can continue to plug away and keep the effort consistent, once the offense starts rolling, things will start to look up.”
1. The Hawks have won eight of their last nine home games against the Nuggets.
2. Atlanta PF Ersan Ilyasova (knee) is expected back after a two-game absence.
3. Denver starting SG Jamal Murray (8.5 points) is shooting just 29.8 percent while starting SF Wilson Chandler (seven) is shooting 33.3 percent.
PREDICTION: Hawks 103, Nuggets 97