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Hawks fall to Pacers in Collins’ Return

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Strong half of play from Collins not enough as Hawks drop seventh straight game.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

John Collins took the floor for the first time in the Hawks’ regular season and helped his team build a 14-point first-half lead. But a minutes restriction prevented Collins from playing in the second half as a tired Hawks’ team could not keep pace, eventually falling to the Pacers 97-89.

Collins’ play in the first half was as electric as at any point during his rookie season. He tallied 12 points, two rebounds and a block in 12 minutes of action, finishing +14 in the box score. The Pacers played short-handed as well, as Victor Oladipo played just five minutes before leaving with an injury. Oladipo was questionable coming into the game and seemed to hurt himself crashing into the photographers along the baseline after a layup attempt.

The Hawks entered this game as a road-weary, banged up team with six consecutive losses, the last three being on the road versus Western Conference opponents, including a 45-point loss in Denver on Thursday. The return of Collins seemed to energize the team as the Hawks looked like a different team in the first half than the one who played in Denver just two days ago.

The play from both teams was sloppy early, though the Hawks deserve credit for their energy level on the defensive end. The Hawks played the passing lanes and forced the Pacers to take contested jump shot after contested jump shot. In spite of their own shooting struggles, the Hawks jumped out to a 6-4 lead on three-pointers from Kent Bazemore and Kevin Huerter. The Pacers then used multiple trips to the free throw line to take the lead 10-9 mid way through the first quarter.

Later in the period, the Pacers found a shooting rhythm. A Myles Turner three put Indiana ahead 20-16 just inside the four minute mark. The Hawks responded with a highlight reel alley-oop from Trae Young to John Collins followed by a layup by Young to pull even at 20-20.

Trae Young connects with John Collins on the transition alley-oop for Collins’ first basket of the season

The teams traded a couple of baskets before a Cory Joseph jumper gave the Pacers a 25-24 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Hawks overcame their poor shooting in the opening quarter and kept the game close by attempting 26 first quarter field goals compared to just 18 by Indiana.

In the second quarter, the Hawks were finally able to convert their energy and effort into a solid lead. Aggressively attacking the basket yielded multiple trips to the free the thrown line allowing the Hawks to put together a 9-0 run to take a 40-30 lead with 6:43 to play in the quarter.

The Pacers then used an 11-1 run of their own to pull even at 44-44 several minutes later. After a Bojan Bogdanovic three gave the Pacers a 47-44 lead, the Hawks finished the half on a tear. The 12-0 run included multiple transition baskets and gave the Hawks a 56-47 lead at the break.

DeAndre’ Bembry gets the dunk in transition to give the Hawks a 56-47 lead heading to the half.

The Pacers flipped the script in the second quarter, taking 27 field goal attempts compared to the 21 by the Hawks, but the Hawks were rewarded for their aggressive play on offense with 13 free throw attempts in the second period compared to just three by the Pacers.

The Hawks opened the third quarter the way they finished the second. Five quick points from Bazemore forced Pacers’ coach Nate McMillan to use a timeout just 70 seconds into the half with the Hawks leading 61-47.

A Kent Bazemore dunk gives the Hawks a 14-point lead early in the second half.

After the timeout, the Pacers looked like a new team. A Darren Collison three started a 9-0 run to pull the Pacers within five at 61-56. The Hawks ended the run with another trip to the free throw line as two free throws by Young got the Hawks back into the scoring column.

The Hawks followed up the free throws by Young with an alley-oop from Bazemore to Dewayne Dedmon, but the Pacers answered with another run. A Doug McDermott layup capped a 9-2 Pacers run forcing Lloyd Pierce to call a timeout with his team leading 67-65 with 3:14 left in the third period.

Kent Bazemore and Dewayne Dedmon connect on a highlight reel play.

The timeout was not an immediate help as the Pacers scored the first six points out of the timeout to increase the run to 15-2 and a 71-67 lead. A Vince Carter three ended the run and the quarter ended with the Hawks trailing 73-72.

Seldom-used Aaron Holiday helped the Pacers build a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Fatigue and injuries seemed to take their toll as turnovers, missed shots and fouls plagued the Hawks. Already playing short-handed, Alex Poythress, Vince Carter and Jeremy Lin sustained injuries during the game. Carter and Lin continued to play but Poythress was unable to return with what the team is calling an ankle contusion.

Another three by Holiday put the Pacers ahead 89-78 with 4:21 to play, after which the Hawks could not recover.

The Pacers were led by Bogdanovic, who scored 22. Holiday, who entered the game with three points on the season, scored an important 12 points off the bench. Jeremy Lin led the Hawks with sixteen points.

Looking ahead, the Hawks will be happy to return home after Saturday’s game. They kick off a four-game homestand Monday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.