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Hawks miss easy opportunities to help Collins avoid foul trouble in loss to Cavaliers

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When short-handed at center everyone has to help keep the starter available.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks were competitive in their Friday evening 121-114 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Early in the game, John Collins, pressed to start at the center position because of the absence of Dewayne Dedmon and Mike Muscala, was making a tremendous impact on the game on both ends of the court. But it was his dominance on the offensive boards that was helping to keep the Hawks ahead of the Cavaliers in the first quarter even though Cleveland was making nearly all of their three point attempts.

In his first quarter play, Collins had nine points on four of five shooting from the field much of it as a result of four offensive rebounds. But the rookie was forced to head to the bench after being assessed his second personal foul with more than three minutes remaining in the period. The Cavaliers would outscore the Hawks 16-6 for the remainder of the first quarter and the game was set on a trajectory which would have the Hawks feverishly trying to keep pace with Cleveland’s offensive production for the rest of the night.

Potentially the most frustrating part was that Collins’ teammates missed easy opportunities to help him avoid those two personal fouls.

This is the play during which Collins was called for his first personal foul. When your backup centers in a game against Lebron James and the Cavaliers are Miles Plumlee and Tyler Cavanaugh this cannot happen. Taurean Prince easily has an opportunity to put his body in between Lebron and the paint and defend him honestly.

Instead, he unwisely gambles for an incredibly unlikely steal and allows James to attack downhill straight to the basket and into the body of Collins.

On the very next defensive possession, Collins is called for his second personal foul. If you watch closely the official looks back several times as he walks toward the scorer’s table in an effort to determine which player committed the foul. If this video would have extended the view from the original camera angle you could see that the official looks back into the paint three, four and maybe even five times before deciding to assess the foul on Collins.

Any of the players in the paint, Ilyasova, Belinelli, and possibly even Bembry could have stepped toward the official and raised a hand as to claim the foul. But that did not happen and Collins had to exit the game. It is especially disappointing that one of the veterans did not have the situational awareness to handle this.

There is no way we can know if this would have changed the outcome, but when you are playing short at a position that is so critical to rim protection and ending defensive possessions with rebounds, these plays are unacceptable. Now, unfortunately, the Hawks will have to wait a few weeks to remedy this issue but it is something to closely monitor when Collins returns from injury.