Nate McMillan sends strong message on Atlanta Hawks’ bench

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

Slump officially busted. The Atlanta Hawks (12-10) snapped their losing streak at three games with a rather casual 125-108 victory over the Orlando Magic. It was not the toughest of matchups – the Magic came in on a five-game losing streak of their own and have just five wins all season. But it was a much-need get-right game for the Atlanta Hawks.

Or so it seemed as the Hawks got 77 points, 21 assists, and 17 rebounds from the trio of Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, and Clint Capela.

But they also lost John Collins and Deandre Hunter to injuries in the first half.

The injuries, however, created an opportunity for several players including former sixth-overall pick Jarrett Culver. He stepped in and finished the contest with a career-high nine rebounds to go with nine points. two steals, and a block.

Nate McMillan sends strong message on Atlanta Hawks reserve

A 6-foot-6 wing, Culver spent the first two years of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves before being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies last season. He signed a two-way contract with the Hawks in September but had only been active for two other games this season before his strong showing against Orlando.

After the game, Hawks head coach Nate McMillan was asked about the contributions he got from the young journeyman.

“Well, It’s our coaches,” McMillan said postgame. Our coaches do a good job of keeping these guys ready to play. We talk about it all the time. Be ready to play, you never know when that opportunity is going to come. With Aaron [Holiday] going down today early, and then JC and Dre not being able to finish, we really needed those guys, Jarrett and Vit [Krejci].”

The Hawks acquired Krejci in exchange for reserve wing Mo Harkless whom they got back in the Kevin Huerter trade. He’s seen action in eight games this season but almost all of it has come in garbage time and small doses.

McMillan was again asked about the contributions from the Hawks’ end-of-bench guys including Trent Forrest who has manned the backup point guard role the past two games.

“They were good,” said the head coach. “They…went down to the G League and played well and really gave our guys some good minutes down with the Skyhawks and i wanted to find a way to get them minutes.”

If his words were not strong enough, McMillan put a bow on the significance of the “others”.

“We don’t win this game if those guys don’t go and contribute like they did tonight.

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The concern is obviously for Collins, Holiday, and Hunter. But it is good to see players take advantage when an opportunity presents itself. Especially when they may have to do it again should one of the injuries linger.