Don’t look now, but the Hawks are streaking – and overall- playing a much better brand of basketball since John Collins returned to the floor. Sunday’s 98-95 win over the Pistons gave the Hawks their longest winning streak of the season. That may only be three games, but it’s something for this young team to build off of moving forward.
On Sunday, it was the Vince Carter show. The 41-year old took us back in time by scoring 18 points in 28 minutes while in an extended role due to John Collins resting. Carter was one of six Hawks to reach double figures, including Alex Len, who recorded 17 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks in his return to the starting lineup.
Wednesday’s task looks to be much more challenging, as the Hawks head back home to take on the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers (22-12) have won nine of their last eleven and currently sit third in the Eastern Conference, building off their playoff run from last year.
Of course, nobody has appreciated Indiana more than Victor Oladipo, who has gone from estranged former #2 overall pick to All-Star shooting guard with the Pacers. He leads them in scoring at 20.2 a night while also dishing out 5.3 assists and snagging 6.4 boards per game.
However, the last time these two teams met, Oladipo was forced to leave the game after crashing into a camera operator just a few minutes into the game. That required his teammates to step up in his absence, which they did in a 97-89 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Bojan Bogdanovic led the way in that one with 22 points, one of six Pacers to reach double-digits.
For the Hawks, that night was one to remember as well, but for an entirely different reason. Atlanta’s starting five struggled mightily, scoring only 32 points combined. Jeremy Lin led all scorers with 16 as the Hawks only managed to shoot 35.6% from the field. But it was the season debut of John Collins.
Collins came back on a minutes restriction that limited him to a mere 12 minutes in which he scored 12 points. While he was on the floor, the Hawks had a plus-minus differents of +14, and he has built off that performance in every game since. In December, Collins is averaging 22.1 points on 57.4% shooting and 13.1 rebounds.
His health combined with the change in venue should give the Hawks an opportunity to extend their win streak to four games. The Hawks are 5-9 at home compared to 4-14 on the road. The Pacers, meanwhile, are 10-7 on the road, slightly less impressive than their 12-5 home mark.