The Atlanta Hawks narrowly escaped their first road game of the season with a win, beating the Detroit Pistons 118-113. They now sit 3-1 with their lone loss being to a surprisingly feisty Charlotte Hornets squad. This time they had to contend with the Pistons’ odd couple, youngster Cade Cunningham and veteran Bojan Bogdanovic.
Even when the Hawks were at their best in this game, the duo kept Detroit in it.
Bogdanovic finished with 33 points, just two points shy of Trae Young for the game’s high, while Cunningham had 26 points.
But, in the end, the Hawks were able to overcome a lot including several miscues of their own to get the hard-fought win. And one play, in particular, caught Young and Hawks head coach Nate McMillan‘s attention.
John Collins Delivered ‘Play of the Game’ to Help Lift Atlanta Hawks
Big man John Collins finished the game with 19 points and 11 rebounds. That it came with just one attempt from behind the arc, which he missed, is arguably the most impressive part of Collins’ line. While he is 0-for-8 from deep in the last two games, this was the third consecutive game that Collins finished with a double-double.
But it was not his offense that got McMillan and Young’s attention.
With under two minutes on the clock and the Hawks nursing a three-point lead following a Bogdanovic triple, Collins got his jump shot blocked by Cunningham who streaked down the floor.
Cunningham appeared to have everyone but Dejounte Murray beat on his way to the basket when Collins came flying in to reject the attempt off of the backboard.
“I thought the play of the game was John’s rundown and that block,” McMillan said in his postgame media availability. “That was a huge play that could have given them momentum.”
It would have brought the Pistons to within one point and left the Hawks reeling. Murray stretched the lead to five with a layup off of that block. But the Pistons went on to cut the deficit down to one point again meaning the Hawks could have been trailing had Collins not chased Cunningham down.
While it is extremely early after just four games, Collins is averaging a career-high 2.3 blocks after the win over Detroit. His defensive rating is in the 96th percentile, also a career-best, per Cleaning The Glass.
Collins told Hawks reporter Annie Finberg he was “just made as hell” he turned the ball over.
“I wanted to make up for it any way I could,” Collins said. “It wasn’t no doubt in my mind I wasn’t getting that one so, it’s another block for me.”
Collins is tied with Anthony Davis for seventh in the NBA in blocks and, while he has not yet found a consistent rhythm with his three-ball, he is shooting his best mark from the floor since 2020. It’s partially a benefit of playing alongside Murray and Young as well as being healthy after the sixth-year pro battled through finger and foot injuries last season.
“The Hawks are +31 with John Collins on the floor in 4 games, best on the team,” Brad Rowland of Locked on Hawks pointed out on Twitter. “The Hawks are -23 with John Collins off the floor in 4 games, worst on the team.”
Collins has also been a fixture in hypothetical trade conversations over the last year-plus.
He has appeared healthy since this summer and over the rumors, perhaps a positive side effect of teaming up with Murray and Young on the pro-am circuit.
Whatever the case, Collins has looked like a different player this season and the Hawks are benefitting from it.