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Bulls struggle to contain Collins as Hawks open road trip with victory

Another new career-high for John Collins.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks kicked off their seven game road trip with a blowout victory in Chicago over the Bulls on Wednesday night, 121-101.

John Collins led the way with a new career-high of 35 points while Jeremy Lin and Taurean Prince added 15 points apiece.

For the Bulls, they were led by Zach LaVine’s 23 points while Lauri Markkanen added 22 points.

Quick start sets the Hawks on their way

You were never quite sure how the Hawks were going to come out of the gates in this one — the first game, the first quarter of a seven-game road-trip.

Any fears of a slow start were quickly allayed as the Hawks came out with great energy as they ran out to a 26-9 start, forcing the Bulls and head coach Jim Boylen into two early timeouts before hanging 42 points in the first quarter.

A stark contrast from earlier in the season, where it was the Hawks and head coach Lloyd Pierce who had to constantly call early timeouts after poor starts from his side.

“There’s been a two-week, three-week period where we started games well,” said Pierce via Fox Sports Southeast. “We’ve been pretty consistent as opposed to the beginning of the year where that was our main issue. So it was nice to see an opposing coach call a timeout.”

What was slightly wild was that every single make for the Hawks was either at the rim or behind the arc.

The Hawks hit six three-pointers in the first period, the first coming from Taurean Prince, who enjoyed a solid game in Chicago and this three-pointer sent him on his way:

The Hawks scored 19 second chance points in this game and Alex Len get the ball rolling on that end as he attacks the offensive glass to grab this Trae Young miss and tuck it away:

But, of course, the first quarter was all about John Collins.

We’ll be looking at Collins in much more detail but for now, he scored 15 of his 35 points in the opening frame, including two three-pointers as the Bulls had seemingly no answer for the second-year big from Wake Forest.

The Hawks built on their hot start and took a 20-point lead in the second quarter and it was all going swimmingly, only for it all to fall apart to close as the Bulls went on a 17-4 run to end the second quarter, including this buzzer-beating three-pointer from Markkanen:

That cut the Hawks’ lead to just six points, a shame for the Hawks to close out the quarter sloppily given their first quarter was arguably one of their best of the season when you take into account they registered just one turnover in the first quarter, only to commit eight turnovers in the second quarter leading to 11 Chicago points.

That Bulls run to end the first half could’ve easily been the turning point in this game, the classic scenario where the Hawks had it all seemingly under wraps and let it slip, but as it turned out that that would be the closest the Bulls would ever get again, as the Hawks quickly restored their double-digit lead with two quick John Collins baskets — leading to a timeout inside the first minute of the third quarter for Jim Boylen — before closing out the quarter on an 11-2 run to give the Hawks a 15-point lead heading into the final quarter.

From there, the game never looked in any doubt and the Hawks ended up blowing the Bulls out on the own floor — the perfect way to kick off a seven-game road trip.

Lloyd Pierce was happy with his team’s performance but also the body of work taking place prior to the game.

“A good team win,” opened Pierce postgame. “Start to finish, I thought our guys came out, played the right way. We had a mindset from yesterday, first real practice in a long time, contact practice, real practice. (We) Had a great shootaround this morning and there’s a lot to be said about that, just to carry over — the ability to get into the gym and work — to carry that over to the game, I thought there was no surprise (about the result). Very good performance for our guys.”

The Hawks played well in this game but it has to be mentioned that the Bulls were just poor last night — they were very poor and just didn’t have the firepower to keep up or the defense slow the Hawks down, who almost got whatever they wanted at the rim through the pick-and-roll.

And one man in particular was able to get whatever he wanted...

John Collins’ career night

John Collins was an unstoppable force in Chicago last night, scoring 35 points on 14-of-16 shooting from the field, 4-of-4 from behind the arc, eight rebounds and plus/minus of plus-33 — all coming in 29 minutes of action (!!).

Collins joins an elite club with that stat line, per Hawks PR:

Larry Bird and Stephen Curry — that’s not too shabby company to keep, it must be said...

His stat lines from his last 24 games aren’t too shabby either.

We’re going to take a look at some of Collins’ 35 points and see the Bulls’ inability to contain him.

Collins hit four three-pointers, two of them coming in the first quarter and both from the same spot.

Robin Lopez is a more traditional center in the NBA and on this possession he strays just a little too far from Collins and can’t prevent Collins from draining the three in the corner:

The Hawks found it very easy to break down the Bulls and part of that is due to the excellent passing of Young (12 assists last night as he continues to climb the Hawks’ rookie assist list).

Here, Young delivers a beautiful drop-pass to the slipping Collins and Collins finishes with authority at the rim and draws the foul on the play:

A nice slip from Collins and a beautiful pass from Young.

All night long, the Hawks were able to break down the Chicago bigs and create plays through their bigs. Dewayne Dedmon tallied five assists on the game, here was one of them as he draws Collins’ defender, Robin Lopez, before finding Collins for the score:

Collins also had an assist in this way but instead of it leading a basket at the rim, he draws the help from LaVine, who leaves Daniel Hamilton in the corner and Collins picks him out, Hamilton hitting the three:

Collins was also able to do damage on the glass, leading to second chance opportunities.

After a great drive and pass from Young to Dedmon in the corner, Dedmon’s missed three is cleaned up by Collins, who scores at the rim:

Again, bears repeating how poor the Bulls were last night — how do you even fail to put a body on Collins underneath the rim after he scored 22 points in the first half?

This rebound and stick-back was much more impressive, as Collins grabs the rebound amongst four Bulls and finishes at the rim despite their presence:

And, just to top it all off — and to highlight again how poor the Bulls were — Collins literally strolls by Lauri Markkanen, receives the ball on the pass from Young and scores at the rim:

Lloyd Pierce has spent a lot of time talking (more so being asked) about Collins this year and didn’t get too drawn into Collins postgame, despite the career-high night.

“It wasn’t anything John specifically did or I specifically called, I just thought our guys played team basketball,” said Pierce of Collins’ career-night. “He was the beneficiary of ball movement and playing behind the defense and us making the right play.”

“John’s got a high motor,” Pierce did go on to say. “We’re trying to increase his activity even more so because when he’s moving and he’s as active as he is with the athleticism, the motor, the energy that he plays with he’s going to impact the game in a lot of different ways. The more he can get behind the defense, the more he can sprint into pick-and-rolls and create separation, the more games he’ll like tonight.”

Collins is a very popular teammate amongst the Hawks and his teammates were delighted to see him succeed in the manner he did last night.

“John Collins is a hell of a teammate, first and foremost, and an extremely good basketball player,” said Taurean Prince. “He does what he needs to do to make us better. We didn’t run one play for him tonight, that’s just him rolling to the basket and being active and doing what he does best.”

Collins himself didn’t have a ton to say about his latest career-night.

“My teammates were getting me the ball in positions that are easy for me to finish in and I had a productive night around the rim and shooting the ball as well,” said Collins.

It was a great night for John Collins and I think Hawks fans everywhere.

Look, this Hawks rebuild has obviously divided opinion but at least the Hawks have something solid in the works — promising players like Young, Huerter and Collins, and Lloyd Pierce has shown great promise too in terms of his coaching, and he and his staff’s player development looks like it’s already paying dividend.

When you looked at last night’s game, I know Wendell Carter Jr. wasn’t playing but, honestly, looking at the two sides play last night it’s clear which side has found a clear direction that they are heading in.

Sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side and there are front offices out there doing horrible jobs constructing their teams. I think last night’s game was a reminder that the Hawks do have a good thing going on.

Rotation and other tidbits

We’ll move on to the rotation and some rapid fire points to close off here...

With no Kevin Huerter again last night (missing with a sore neck), the Hawks this time elected to actually play Justin Anderson in the rotation. Anderson added defense to the lineup and this poster dunk:

Crushin’ it.

Anderson played 18 minutes in the end, scoring seven points but continues to struggle with his outside shot, shooting 1-of-6 from three.

Vince Carter was a DNP-CD last night but, really, it was a ‘DNP-Carter’s Decision’.

The ‘We Want Vince!’ chants broke out at United Center but Carter never made an appearance, even during garbage time.

Postgame, Pierce elaborated on it all.

“I walked down with about seven minutes to go and I said ‘Yes or no’ and it was the loudest ‘no’ I heard all night so I walked away,” said Pierce with a smile. “You’re not even going to question Vince Carter on a move like that. I get it but it’s his decision and in that moment that’s all I needed ... he said a very emphatic ‘no.’”

So there you have it — a DNP-CD but of a different sort. Kent Bazemore — still sidelined with injury — did his best to gee up the crowd on the ‘We Want Vince’ chants but Carter wasn’t having it.

In Vince’s place in the rotation, of sorts, Omari Spellman played 19 minutes and I think you’re going to see much more of Spellman over Vince from here on out, certainly on this road trip. Not that Spellman played well at all — he somehow managed to be a minus-16 on the night but he may as well play at this stage over Carter.

Right, time for quick-hitters...

  • Good game from the Hawks’ bench in this one, outscoring the Bulls’ bench 50-29, led by Jeremy Lin’s 15 points, seven of which came in the third quarter. Alex Len had a double-double off of the bench of 14 points and 10 rebounds (including seven offensive rebounds) and was involved in a wild phase of play where he ended up with three offensive rebounds:
  • Speaking of rebounds, the Hawks won that battle 51-37, the Hawks scoring 19 second chance points, led by Len’s and Collins’ six apiece.
  • Young did not have a good night shooting the ball but did have 12 assists, though, Pierce would prefer to see Young have a good shooting game than the opposite.

“It’s a positive (the passing/assists) but we still want him to shoot well,” said Pierce postgame. “It’s not something we’re inviting or looking for. We’re looking for an efficient game from all of our guys.”

  • The Hawks were having fun and just clowning with the Bulls last night. Things like:

When Young is saying that an opposing is ‘too little’, that’s something in itself.


And while the game was (needlessly) being extended for a review for a foul on a play where Justin Anderson had to make a play (with the shot clock being lower than the remaining game-clock, which the Bulls doubled, so of course he’s going to make a play) and the Bulls then taking two timeouts after the fact (TWO!! Please don’t mind me, still salty for the Bulls delaying this game even more after 3 a.m.), Young was having his fun on the bench:

Amazing, truly.

The Hawks (15-32) are back in action on Saturday in the Pacific Northwest, taking on the Portland Trail Blazers as they truly kick off their road trip.

Should be fun, Damian Lillard is fun.

Until next time...