John Collins returned after a three-game absence with the flu Wednesday night against the Spurs. The second-year rising star didn’t miss a stride, tacking on another double-double to his total with 18 points and ten rebounds in only 25 minutes. Unfortunately, his counterpart – LaMarcus Aldridge – brought his A-game to State Farm Arena.
The 33-year old veteran expertly dissected Atlanta’s defense all night with his pattened mid-range game, leading to 32 points on 11-16 from the field. The Hawks had no answer, which has been the theme for this team in most games this season – poor defense.
The Spurs also got a boost from their second-year point guard, Derrick White, who put up a stat line rarely seen in the NBA. The Colorado product had 18 points, nine assists, and six blocks, and did so in a very Spur-like manner, shooting an efficient 8-11 from the floor, limiting his turnovers to just two, and while locking down Trae Young.
After the game, Spurs coach Greg Popovich said, “Derrick and L.A. were special.”
Young, who has been tearing up the league since late January, came back to earth in the first half, going 1-10 from the field with two points and four assists. Despite that, the Hawks still carried a three-point lead heading into the locker room behind 10 points each from John Collins and Kent Bazemore.
In the second half, Young once again reminded us shaky performances – just like lofty comparisons – don’t phase the rookie point guard. He bounced back with a 20-point second half on 7-14 shooting, but it wasn’t enough to maintain the lead, as the Spurs pulled away late in the fourth quarter.
Midway through the third quarter, Taurean Prince was ejected after picking up back-to-back technical fouls. He exited the game with nine points and five rebounds.
On his ejection, Bazemore said, ” If we had him in the second half, it would’ve been a totally different ballgame.”
The Hawks were already short-handed coming in without rookie Omari Spellman and center Dewayne Dedmon. That, along with John Collins’ minutes restriction and Taurean Prince’s ejection made it quite an uphill battle against an always scrappy Spurs squad fighting for their playoff lives.
The win moves San Antonio to 37-29 on the year, good for a tie with the Los Angeles Clippers for the seventh seed out West, but firmly ahead of the Kings for the final playoff spot, who are now four games back. The Hawks moved to 22-44 with the loss and 11-20 at State Farm Arena. Atlanta returns to the floor at home on Saturday to face the Brooklyn Nets.