With John Collins returning from his 25-game suspension, the Atlanta Hawks seemingly entered Monday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers with renewed optimism and, of course, a very talented player to feature in the frontcourt. For some of the night, there were plenty of positives but, in the end, it was an eighth consecutive loss by a final score of 121-118.
The early going belonged to the Cavs, headlined by an 11-2 run for the home team. However, Collins wasted no time in announcing his presence with authority.
John Collins is back. pic.twitter.com/kz3KrVq8zk— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 24, 2019
Elsewhere in the first quarter, Jabari Parker put together a mini-flurry offensively to keep the Hawks engaged.
#JabariJams pic.twitter.com/VmhIcRM8W9— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 24, 2019
Oh, and there was more from Collins, with the big man on the receiving end of a steal and dish from Cam Reddish.
CAM AND JOHN pic.twitter.com/82HZF03NFx— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 24, 2019
The Hawks did trail by as many as 11 points in the first quarter, though, and the team’s defense was problematic. The Cavs put up 42 points by scoring nearly 1.4 points per possession and Atlanta simply struggled to generate stops. On the bright side, the offense was solid for the Hawks throughout the half, including a patented connection between Collins and Trae Young.
Trae and John go together like peanut butter and jelly. pic.twitter.com/XQbg1rZ1zp— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 24, 2019
That play keyed a 9-2 run to open the second quarter for Atlanta and Young also buried an off-dribble three during that spurt. Unfortunately, the rest of the night had to exist without Alex Len on the floor, with the big man spraining his left ankle early in the second period.
Len was replaced by more minutes from Collins and Damian Jones at center, but Fernando had a flash play in his own right.
WITHOUT. HESITATION. pic.twitter.com/OJlKB2n4HB— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) December 24, 2019
The defensive issues were the biggest culprit in Atlanta trailing by a seven-point margin at the break, but three players were prolific in the first half. Young, Collins and De’Andre Hunter combined for 53 of the team’s 64 points before halftime, with Hunter scoring 14 of his 17 first-half points in the second quarter.
Early in the second half, the Hawks lost another big man when Fernando suffered what the team described as a “mouth contusion.” While that looked (and sounded) quite painful, Atlanta did improve its play on the court, putting together a 10-0 run to take the lead at 76-74.
John gets a rebound.— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 24, 2019
Trae makes a pass.
DE'ANDRE HUNTER GETS TO 21 POINTS WITH AUTHORITY pic.twitter.com/QStffVr7gN
With the exception of that 10-0 push, there weren’t many fireworks in the third quarter. Atlanta threatened to pull away at times but, in the end, the two teams went to the fourth quarter knotted at 94-94 in a game that was projected to be close even before tip-off.
The beginning of the fourth quarter was rough for Atlanta, with the Hawks scoring only two points in the first 5:26 of clock time. That allowed the Cavs to take a 10-point lead and, after a three from Kevin Huerter stopped the bleeding momentarily, Cleveland extended the advantage to 12 points, prompting a timeout from Lloyd Pierce with 5:45 to play.
Though a pair of threes from Huerter and Collins trimmed the margin to ten points, the Cavs answered with four straight points and, with a 14-point deficit and only three minutes to play, the Hawks were in deep trouble. The visitors had one more run in them, however, scoring 10 straight points in an 80-second span to make things quite interesting.
After the Cavs finally scored, the Hawks trailed by six points but Young connected on a three-pointer to slash the margin to 121-118. Atlanta then benefitted from a turnover and, after an empty trip, the Hawks generated a big defensive stop with 5.1 seconds to go.
Then, after a timeout, Atlanta got a shot to the rim to tie but Young’s effort fell short an, ultimately, Atlanta fell by a three-point margin and the team’s winning streak was extended to eight games.
From an individual standpoint, there were some standout statistical performances. Young led the way with 30 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, and Collins produced 27 points and 10 rebounds in his return. Hunter added 23 points and Huerter scored a season-best 19 points on a season-high five connections from three-point range.
The Hawks will now enter a three-day break for the holiday before returning to action on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks at State Farm Arena. Stay tuned.