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John Collins explodes as Hawks thrash Bulls, 121-101

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Collins set a new benchmark in a comfortable win.

Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks (15-32) traveled to Chicago to take on the Bulls for what will be the first game of a seven-game road trip that travels as far west as Portland and as far east as the nation’s capital. What has been deemed by many as the “Super Bowl road trip” seems a bit unfair from a pure logistics standpoint, but no less, it began with a 121-101 victory on Wednesday evening.

With Kevin Huerter remaining out with a sore neck that surfaced in pre-game warmups Monday, head coach Lloyd Pierce elected to go with the starting lineup of Trae Young, DeAndre’ Bembry, Taurean Prince, John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon. In contrast, the Bulls ran out a lineup featuring Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Chandler Hutchinson, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez.

Atlanta started the game on a 15-6 run, with eight from Collins alone (two three-pointers and a lay-up that was goal-tended by Chicago). The Bulls appeared to started the game in a zone defense, perhaps leading to the extra space. Atlanta had three three-pointers total before a quick Bulls timeout when the score hit 13-6 with 8:27 to play in the first.

Daniel Hamilton was the first sub off the bench for Atlanta, and he promptly hit a three to make it 18-8. By the 6:13 mark in the first period, the Hawks already had 26 to the Bulls nine points, and Collins had 11 including the previously mentioned three-pointers as well as an and-one finish off of a dime from Young. Atlanta started the evening 5-for-6 from three-point-range and 10-for-14 overall.

What ended up being a 23-5 run set the Hawks up to control this game from the early going. The Bulls had closed the gap some with a 12-7 run until Justin Anderson spiked this ferocious dunk on Bobby Portis’ head.

Following the jam, the Hawks went on a 9-4 run to get the lead back up to 17 to close the first quarter. Hawks 42, Bulls 25 after one.

Collins finished the quarter with 15 points. LaVine lead Chicago in scoring for the period with 11. Notably, the away team only had one turnover in the first 12 minutes of play, which is, let’s say, an improvement from the NBA’s most turnover prone team. Young finished the period with five assists and zero turnovers.

The second period started rather sloppy for the Hawks with zero points in the first two minutes of the period before Collins connected on yet another corner-three to make it 45-27 in favor of the Hawks just over fourteen minutes into the contest. Collins was 6-for-7 from the field (3-for-3 from three-point range) with 18 points at this point. Collins added two of the next three baskets for the Hawks to push that to 22 points and 8-for-9 from the field.

The lead stayed around the 15-20 point range for the majority of the second, with the Hawks cooling down from their scorching start before a 17-4 run capped off by a Markkanen buzzer-beater at the break cut Atlanta’s halftime lead to only six at 66-60.

It was a ten-man rotation in the first half for coach Lloyd Pierce, with each of those players playing at least eight minutes in the half. Vince Carter and Tyler Dorsey were the only active Hawks to not appear.

Collins had 22 points to lead Atlanta. While Young was 0-5 from the field at the break and didn’t score, he had eight assists and put pressure on the Chicago defense, hitting Collins multiple times for open threes or easy finishes inside. The Hawks bench combined for 31 points in the half.

The turnover bug returned in the second for Atlanta, as they committed eight in the period following an almost perfect first.

Markkanen led the scoring in the first half for Chicago with 14 (10 in the second quarter) while LaVine had 13 at the break.

Collins opened the second half with two more easy baskets inside to push his total to 26 points (10-11 from the field) less than a minute into the third. Young quickly added two more assists to push that total to ten less than two minutes into the half. The Hawks started the half on a 10-2 run over a three minute span to push the lead back to 14.

The Bulls went on a 13-8 run to cut it back to seven in the middle of the period, while Collins added two more baskets to reach his career high of 30 with plenty of time to add on. LaVine was aggressive again for the Bulls, much like he was early in the game, driving to the basket for lay-ins and drawing fouls.

A LaVine three cut the lead to six before Jeremy Lin promptly pushed the ball back down the floor and hit an and-one lay in despite heavy contact by Lopez. Lopez went to the bench following the foul but continued to voice his displeasure with the call for some reason and picked up a technical foul from the seat of his pants.

Young finally hit his first shot of the night to push Atlanta’s lead back up to 12 late in the third quarter. The run reached 11-2 after Lin hit a three to put the Hawks up 15 to close the quarter in positive fashion.

The visitors took a 15-point lead, at 98-83, into the fourth quarter. During the period, Collins added eight more points to get his total to 30 through three, while Lavine added 10 to push his total to 23 for Chicago.

Collins opened the scoring in the fourth with a baseline dunk to set a new career high in points.

The two teams traded baskets for almost the first half of the fourth, which was better for Atlanta than Chicago considering the score. The Hawks pulled away as the Bulls sort of waved the white-flag as the lead was too much to overcome down the stretch.

Collins finished with 35 points (14-for-16 from the floor, 4-for-4 from three-point-range), adding eight rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes. Young actually had a great night in some ways despite shooting 1-for-12. He finished with 12 assists and seven rebounds, while also committing only three turnovers.

Dedmon added 14 points and seven rebounds while Alex Len had a double-double with 12 points and ten boards. Lin added 15 points and four assists in reserve duty, with 15 points and six rebounds from Prince.

Despite a couple of runs from Chicago, this was really one the Hawks controlled for the most part, as they never trailed in the game and lead by as much as 20 in the first quarter, and 24 late in the fourth.

The Hawks finished shooting 50-percent from the field (45-90) and 37.5 percent from three-point-range (15-40) in what was an impressive offensive performance. They out-rebounded the Bulls 51-36, with 16 offensive rebounds to the opponents seven.

The Hawks went on to turn the ball over 16 times after the first quarter, something they continue to struggle with and will need to improve on if they plan on competing with better teams on the road.

This was a big win for Atlanta before they head further west to face much stiffer competition in the likes of Utah, Sacramento, and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Hawks will return to action on Saturday evening with a match-up against the Portland Trail Blazers. Stay tuned.