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John Collins shines as Hawks fall against San Antonio

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Another impressive outing from Collins, who continues to shine a light in a bleak season

Memphis Grizzlies v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks fell to the San Antonio Hawks in a low-scoring affair at the AT&T Center on Monday evening by a final score of 96-85.

Or, was it...?

(Shoutout to the great folks who run the official Hawks Twitter, because this was fantastic. If you’re confused, here’s what this is referring to.)

John Collins led the Hawks with a career-high 21 points and nine rebounds while Taurean Prince added 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting.

For the Spurs, they were led by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 22 points while Manu Ginobili added 16 points.

Very quickly for the game itself (want to focus more on the other aspects of it today, the recap will get you up to speed for the game itself), the Hawks had issues scoring the ball in general and while they did limit LaMarcus Aldridge to four points in the first half, he went off for 18 in the second half and 12 in the final period.

John Collins’ career-night

Hawks rookie John Collins posted a new career-high on Monday night with 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting while collecting nine rebounds and blocking two shots. Most of Collins’ work came in the third quarter where he scored 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting.

It’s becoming old to say already, but the energy Collins brings each game has been invaluable for the Hawks — he comes in and just works.

Collins came up with four offensive rebounds in this game, which helped the Hawks on their way to 15 second chance points:

As we’ve come to expect, Collins was also aggressive in the pick-and-roll, putting constant pressure on the rim, and he found a lot of success here last night:

San Antonio’s bigs aren’t exactly fleet-footed — they’re highly, highly skilled but not the quickest — and that, in combination with some poor help defense, meant that Collins found success in the pick-and-roll and at the rim:

A surprise from last night from Collins was his jump shot. We know he has it in the locker, but that’s exactly where it has been for, pretty much, all season: in the locker. We saw a rare attempt against Boston but it missed. Other than that Collins has been reluctant to take the open jump-shot (perhaps afraid of drawing the wrath of the coaching staff?).

Last night, he looked confident to take the jumper, and the two Collins took went down:

Though the shot-clock basically forced Collins to take the jumper, he looked calm and collected doing so.

This one wasn’t though:

With Mike Muscala sitting out again with an ankle injury, Ersan Ilyasova clearly being brought back into the fold slowly and Luke Babbitt having to leave the game due to injury, Collins also played a career-high 36 minutes, the first time he has played over 30 minutes in a game, including big minutes down the stretch in this game.

“We were a little shorthanded,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer. “Luke went down, Muskie wasn’t available . . . (John) played a lot in the fourth quarter, did a lot of things well.

“LaMarcus took his game to another level and John will learn from that, John will be better the next time he’s playing against that type of player in a fourth quarter when it’s close. It’s invaluable for John to be play in that situation”

Bud referred to LaMarcus Aldridge’s 12 points in the fourth quarter, some of them coming against Collins — LMA just used his experience and skill to out-fox the young Collins:

Here was a Portland-LaMarcus type of rebound, Collins got himself in a very tough position underneath the basket against one of the premier rebounders in the league:

As Bud said, this is a huge learning curve for Collins. The more and more you think about it, the more you realise that the NBA — despite what people may say — is full of fantastic big-men.

In his first 17 games in the league Collins, has seen many bigs with differing skill-sets, all providing different challenges: Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, aggressive Robin Lopez, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokić, Joel Embiid, Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins...

When you’re going up against this kind of quality on a near-nightly basis and playing significant minutes as Collins is, you’re going to learn how to play in this league much quicker and, as Bud correctly said, it’s “invaluable” to Collins’ development.

Taurean Prince’s strong night

In what was a homecoming of sorts, Taurean Prince put together a very strong game in San Antonio — 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, eight rebounds and two blocks.

(Courtesy of NBA.com/stats)

Prince did the majority of his damage at the rim, where he was able to get to time-and-time again, including this coast-to-coast take at the end of the third quarter:

Oooooh.

Prince’s 18 points were big for the Hawks as others — like Dennis Schröder and Kent Bazemore — struggled from the field. TP’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

“I thought Taurean was good,” said Bud postgame. “I think on both ends I thought he blocked a couple of shots, some really athletic-type blocks, rebounds, driving the ball, finishing, making threes... We feel he can do a lot of things.”

Bud also recognized the homecoming for Prince and is happy that he’s finding some personal success on the court even though the team itself is struggling.

“I’m sure coming back to San Antonio, where he was raised, means a little extra something for him,” said Bud. “Good for him. We’d all like to have more success but for him individually he’s doing well.”

A good night from TP on a night where production was, obviously, hard to come by.

Manu Ginobili’s winning impact

At 40 years young, Manu Ginobili still finds a way to get it done.

While LaMarcus led the scoring with 22 points, Manu was the igniter, the catalyst — he just makes winning plays and was a huge reason why the Spurs won this game:

I’d recommend watching that, it’s just so impressive to see someone aged 40 in the NBA to have the impact Manu did in this game — look at some of those plays, huge plays, momentum swingers.

One man who spent a lot of time with Manu Ginibili was former Spurs assistant coach and current Hawks head coach, Mike Budenholzer, and nothing that Manu does is a surprise to him, even at age 40.

“He’s one of the most special competitors to ever play the sport,” said Bud of Ginobili. “Just a ton of respect. I don’t want to see him when our team is out there and I enjoy watching him the other 80 times of the year.”

A lot of respect shown by Bud there, and for good reason — Manu was fantastic and, again, one of the main reasons the Spurs pulled this one out.

Free throw woes

If you enjoy watching free throws, this wasn’t the game for you.

There was a total of 14 free throws shot in this game, eight for the Hawks and six for the Spurs. However, while the Spurs made all six of their free throws, the Hawks only shot 3-of-8 from the line.

Neither team excelled in this department but you’d be disappointed that the Hawks didn’t shoot more than eight free throws in this game. You’d especially want Dennis Schröder to get to the line a little more — he didn’t get to the line at all in this game and gets to the line 3.3 times per game on average.

If the Hawks had gotten to the line a little more, this game could’ve been closer but you could play the ‘coulda’-shoulda’-woulda’’ card every game for some category in a game...

Kent Bazemore’s rough night

Not a great night for Baze — five points on 2-of-13 shooting from the field in just under 25 minutes.

We’ve, unfortunately, seen plenty of games like this from Baze already this season. It’s tough to watch, not just because you want to see Baze to do well, but because some of these shots he’s putting up are bad — Baze got very shot-happy in the third quarter as he jacked up four, seemingly, quick shots making just one.

Bazemore is now averaging 13.3 points per game on 38% shooting from the field and 32% from three.

Babbitt’s injury

After a back injury limited Luke Babbitt to just 11 minutes against the Kings, Babbitt played 25 minutes against the Celtics on Saturday night. You thought, after that game, that everything was going to be OK with Babbitt and the danger was over, but the back injury struck again last night.

Babbitt was limited to just seven minutes of action on Monday and did not play in the second half. The Hawks say it was a precautionary measure to hold Babbitt out of the second half but it’s concerning that this problem has flared up as soon as it had.

It would not surprise me if Babbitt misses a game or two as a result.


The Hawks (3-14) are back in action on Wednesday when they’ll take on the reeling Los Angeles Clippers (losers of nine straight games) at Philips Arena.