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Hawks allow Blazers to separate down the stretch in 120-111 loss

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The Hawks played the Blazers close for most of the game, but ran out of gas late.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks entered Portland tonight looking to pick up a win against the worn and torn Trail Blazers, who were without All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. In contrast, Kevin Huerter made his return to the starting lineup for the Hawks who have missed him dearly over the last week.

The visitors started off playing fairly well on the offensive end of the floor thanks to Trae Young being able to dissect the Trail Blazers’ defense with relative ease. The Hawks did a good job of pulling their big men out to the three-point line, where Portland’s big men are a bit more timid. John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon both hit early threes to help space the floor and give Atlanta a lift, but the offense seemed to die off after Collins got into foul trouble.

Birthday boy Vince Carter, who turned 42 on Saturday, entered the game late in the first to a chorus of cheers from the Portland faithful and immediately made an impact in the game by hitting a three-pointer to help bridge the Hawks to their second unit. To close the quarter, Atlanta got great minutes out of Taurean Prince and Alex Len, who combined to give the team eight big points, closing the deficit to a manageable 10 going into the second quarter.

The Hawks were quick to whittle away at a 40-30 Portland lead thanks to a mini-offensive explosion from the always fun Collins and Young duo. Young specifically was a big part of the Atlanta success in the second period as he scored or assisted on 11 points in the opening five minutes of the quarter to actually help the Hawks regain the lead.

The closing six minutes of the second quarter were fairly uneventful on offense for the Hawks, but were really nice to watch on defense as Lloyd Pierce found a unit that could switch easily. The Blazers were really having trouble without Damian Lillard leading the way and had CJ McCollum shouldering most of the scoring load but also turning the ball over on occasion when trying to create for his teammates.

When all was said and done, you could say the first half was actually successful for the Hawks, which was something you might not have thought possible after allowing a 40-point first quarter to Portland. Atlanta carried a one-point lead into the locker room up 64-63 at the break as Collins led the way for the Hawks with 14 points.

Coming out of the break, the Hawks continued to keep things close, but the Blazers were noticeably more aggressive on the offensive end. Again, Young was the most heavily involved Hawk on the floor to open the period, but Atlanta was having difficulty breaking through from the back-and-forth action.

Late in the third, the Hawks turned to Jeremy Lin, who enjoyed a strong performance in reserve duty on Saturday. Lin was doing a great job of wiggling his way into the lane with his trademark hesitation dribble, scoring and assisting with ease. Portland was able to get back on the horse with a 30-point third quarter, but the Hawks were right there down 93-90 going into the final frame.

The fourth quarter opened with the Trail Blazers getting a quick six points, but the Hawks were able to draw back within one thanks to Young, who was just getting pretty much whatever he wanted against Wade Baldwin. After a layup and a three-pointer from Young, Vince Carter was able to lift Atlanta with a nice inside pass for a Collins layup and by hitting a big three-pointer off another great Young pass.

With the Hawks trailing 101-100, Pierce decided to remove Young and Collins from the game and, almost immediately, Atlanta went down by nine thanks to a couple of Seth Curry three-pointers and a CJ McCollum driving layup. This prompted Pierce to re-insert his prized young duo around the four minute mark of the fourth, but by that point, things seemed to be a little too much out of hand for the Hawks.

After two Curry free throws and another Curry three pointer, the game was basically out of reach for the Hawks, who were down 14 (after a 13-0 run) with two and a half minutes to go. Young finally was fouled with just over two minutes remaining and hit two free throws to give Atlanta their first points since the 7:18 mark of the fourth.

The Hawks would go on to take the loss after being within a single point around the seven minute mark of the fourth period. Young was fantastic in the loss with 30 points and eight assists alongside Collins, who added in 21 points and six rebounds of his own.

Atlanta continues their West Coast road trip with a visit to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Monday before bouncing back up north to face the Sacramento Kings, who dropped 146 points earlier this season in Atlanta, on Wednesday. Stay tuned.