Newcomers Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler combined to score 31 points Monday night, helping Denver rally for a 100-90 win over the Atlanta Hawks for the Nuggets' third win in four games since the deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to New York.
Felton had 16 points and Chandler added 15 as the Nuggets used a 8-0 surge early in the fourth quarter to pull away from the road-weary Hawks.
J.R. Smith put the finishing touches on the win as he tipped in an alley-oop pass from Felton with 1:34 remaining to give the Nuggets a 10-point lead.
Smith scored a team-high 19 points, while Kenyon Martin contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds as they picked up the slack in the absence of Danilo Gallinari, who will miss a week to 10 days after fracturing his left big toe at Portland on Friday.
Joe Johnson finished with 22 points and Al Horford added 21 points and 16 rebounds for the Hawks, who wrapped up a seven-game road swing with a 3-4 mark.
Atlanta played the second half without Josh Smith after he injured his right knee. He finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
Although the Hawks played the night before, they stayed with the Nuggets until they ran out of steam in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets used a 16-7 run to seal the win.
The Hawks were without guard Kirk Hinrich, who was scratched just before tipoff with a sore right calf.
With Gallinari out, Karl had to get creative with his lineup, going with four guards at times. But what the Nuggets relied on most was stellar defense, including Felton drawing a key charge late in the game.
It was a back-and-forth third quarter, featuring nine lead changes and three ties. The Nuggets took a 71-70 lead on a pair of free throws by Chandler with 4.7 seconds left.
Trailing most of the first half, the Nuggets held a momentary 46-45 lead on a long jumper from Chandler. But the Hawks came right back as Johnson drove in for a layup to give the Hawks a 47-46 halftime advantage.
J.R. Smith took a hard fall in the second quarter after being knocked off balance by Damien Wilkins on a drive to the hoop. Smith limped around for a few minutes, favoring his left hip, yet didn't leave the floor.
Nuggets coach George Karl said Gallinari's toe remains tender, but he expected the 22-year-old forward back Wednesday against Charlotte.
Gallinari was acquired by the Nuggets in the blockbuster deal that sent Chauncey Billups and Anthony to the Knicks. He had two points in his debut with Denver last Thursday in a win over Boston, before erupting for 30 at Portland on Friday, one shy of tying his career high.
Asked after morning practice how much pressure it was to replace a player such as Anthony, Gallinari shrugged and responded: "Melo is a superstar. I'm not a superstar. I'm a normal player that can help the team win. That's it."
Hinrich has played in two games for Atlanta since the trade with Washington last week. He had eight points in more than 29 minutes during a win at Portland on Sunday night.
Before the game, Hawks coach Larry Drew said Hinrich was "a little sore."
With a few days between games, Gallinari took a tour of the Mile High City — sore toe and all. He explored different parts of town for potential houses and dined at some local Italian restaurants.
And while he was occasionally recognized, it was nothing compared to a stroll along Times Square.
"The pace is completely different from New York," Gallinari said. "I like it."
Notes: The Hawks were the only team the Nuggets had yet to face this season. The two meet again March 16 in Atlanta. ... Hawks player development instructor Nick Van Exel played four seasons with Denver (1998-2002). He's been tutoring F/G Pape Sy, who's been playing for the Utah Flash of the NBA development league, and G Jeff Teague. "He's been a great hire," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said. ... The Nuggets are 25-7 at home, one of the top marks in the Western Conference.