The Atlanta Hawks probably aren't looking forward to the end of their eight-game homestand and they likely were hoping to finish it without having to face Carmelo Anthony.The Hawks look to win their fifth straight Monday when they host Anthony and the Denver Nuggets.
Anthony returned to the court for the Nuggets (20-11) on Sunday following a three-game absence because of a sore right elbow. He scored 32 points on 13-of-19 from the field in a 117-110 win at New York and also had nine rebounds and four assists.
"I think that was the best thing that ever happened to me," Anthony said of the week off. "At first I was a little hesitant about doing it. Any time you can get rest during a long season like this, it helps."
Anthony has been bothered by the elbow injury for some time, but the Nuggets finally decided to give him some time off after he had been held to 11.5 points on 29.6 percent shooting (8-of-27) in losses to Cleveland and Phoenix. His struggles were all but forgotten on Sunday, particularly in the fourth quarter when he hit all five shots and helped the Nuggets to a six-point lead late in the period.
"He was really hot. It's good to have him back," Denver guard Chauncey Billups said. "They never doubled him and if they would have, he's grown to the player that was going to make the next play, make the pass."
Denver was 2-1 without its leading scorer, who is averaging 21.0 points. Anthony has a good opportunity to increase that total as the Nuggets continue their four-game road trip against Atlanta (19-10). He is averaging 25.9 points in nine career games versus the Hawks, putting up 31.0 in his last two contests at Atlanta.
The Nuggets are 7-2 against the Eastern Conference, but Atlanta has won seven of its last eight overall, including four in a row.
The Hawks are coming off a 129-117 win over Chicago on Saturday. They shot 55.7 percent from the field and were led by Joe Johnson's season-high 41 points.
Johnson, who recorded a triple-double in his previous game, fell a point shy of matching his career scoring high, set March 7, 2006 against Golden State.
"The guys were saying I should keep the ball and go to the free-throw line," Johnson said of the last minute, when the Bulls had to foul. "But all that mattered to me is that we won the game."
This contest concludes an eight-game homestand for the Hawks, who are 13-2 at Philips Arena this season due in large part to a defense that has limited opponents to 93.1 points per game there.
Atlanta's 129 points Saturday were a season high and came after it averaged 92.7 points in the previous 11 games.
"It shows that we are versatile," forward Josh Smith said. "It doesn't matter whether we're playing a fast style of basketball or slow, just as long as we win."
The Hawks are 6-1 on the homestand, with the only loss an 88-85 defeat to defending NBA champion Boston while the six wins have been by an average of 9.2 points.
Denver and Atlanta split two meetings last season, each winning at home.