One glaring issue is preventing the Nuggets from taking the next step

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Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER — The same story unfolded Wednesday night at Pepsi Center that's played out the exact same way three separate times over the past two weeks.

The Nuggets came out sloppy and sluggish against a below .500 team, lost the first quarter and couldn't get enough stops to mount a second-half comeback.

Three defeats and the three worst losses of Denver's season—against the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 30, versus the plebian Sacramento Kings on Saturday and tonight, to the lowly Atlanta Hawks—illustrate the Nuggets' most glaring problem as Denver shoots for its first playoff appearance since the 2012-13 season.

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