DENVER (AP) – Brian Shaw had to sweat out his first win as an NBA coach right to the final horn. When it was finally over, relief trumped joy.
Ty Lawson had 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds and the Denver Nuggets held on to beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-107 on Thursday night for Shaw’s first victory.
“I feel relieved to finally get it,” he said. “It wasn’t easy.”
Nate Robinson added 15 points and JaVale McGee had 14 for Denver (1-3), which rallied from eight points down in the fourth quarter before surviving a late Atlanta rally.
PHOTO GALLERY: Nuggets 109, Hawks 107
The win leaves Utah (0-5) as the NBA’s only winless team.
Paul Millsap scored a season-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Hawks but missed a short jumper that would have tied the game with 1.9 seconds left. Al Horford, who had 21 points, grabbed the rebound but his shot was off as time expired.
When Horford’s shot skimmed off the rim, the Nuggets could finally relax.
“Nothing is going to be easy with this team, every night it’s going to be a dog fight,” Shaw said. “We almost did everything in our power to not win it.”
The Nuggets led by as many as nine points in the first half and five in the third quarter but found themselves trailing in the final 7 minutes.
The Hawks took the lead early in the fourth quarter when Kyle Korver hit a 3-pointer and Shelvin Mack’s desperation heave at the shot-clock buzzer made it 93-88.
Mack’s layup and a basket by Jeff Teague extended the lead to 98-90 with 6:52 left.
“It was hectic,” Horford said. “I felt like when we were up 98-92 it was a good chance for us to put them away and we weren’t able to. They kept making tough shots.”
Denver rallied to take the lead on Lawson’s jumper with 1:46 left and his 3-pointer made it 107-102 with 59 seconds remaining.
“They were making big plays, we were making big plays,” Lawson said. “I tried to tell our guys they were going to make another push and the game wasn’t over.”
The Hawks proved him right by mounting a comeback. Teague’s basket made it a three-point game and Millsap hit two free throws with 26 seconds left to make it 107-106.
Robinson and Millsap traded free throws, and Lawson hit 1 of 2 from the line to make it 109-107.
Atlanta called time out to set up a play, and the ball went into Millsap. His turnaround jumper over Andre Miller – giving up 6 inches – was short, Horford got the rebound but missed a short jumper.
“I had a smaller guy on me so I figured I could shoot over the top of him,” said Millsap, who missed his final four shots after starting 10 of 11 from the field. “I knew it would be difficult to get to the basket. I settled for my step-back jump shot. I felt like it was a good shot, it didn’t go in.”
The veteran Miller was expecting Millsap to go to the basket.
“I didn’t think he was going to post me, I thought they were going to go to the pick-and-roll but luckily I got him off the block enough,” Miller said.
He did enough to help the Nuggets avoid starting 0-4 for the first time since the lockout-shortened 1999 season.
“It was weighing on everybody. Coach Shaw, the assistant coaches had speeches for us today,” Lawson said. “To get this monkey off our back feels good for everyone.”
The Nuggets used an 11-2 run at the end of the first quarter to tie the game at 26-all. Evan Fournier hit two 3-pointers to bring Denver close after Atlanta had scored 14 straight to take a 10-point lead.
Denver went up 44-35 midway through the second when JaVale McGee slammed a lob from Randy Foye, but the Hawks went on a 13-4 run to tie it at 48. Lawson’s driving layup with 3.6 seconds left in the first half gave the Nuggets a 54-51 halftime lead.
NOTES: Hawks G Dennis Schroder served his one-game suspension Thursday. Schroder was suspended by the league for striking Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins in the groin during Atlanta’s win over the Kings on Tuesday. … Nuggets F Wilson Chandler (strained left hamstring) has started basketball activities but there is no timetable for his return. … Korver has made at least one 3-pointer in 78 straight games. It’s the longest active streak in the NBA and tied for third-longest in league history.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)