The Atlanta Hawks will get a major piece of their lineup back on Monday when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers. But will the return of forward John Collins be enough to help the young club end its seven-game losing streak?
Collins has completed a 25-game suspension for violation of the NBA’s drug policy and is eligible to play again on Monday. He was averaging a team-leading 8.8 rebounds and 17 points per game before the penalty. He has been traveling and practicing with the team but had to leave the arena before the games.
The Hawks were 2-3 when Collins’ suspension began and went 4-21 in his absence. They are tied with Golden State for the worst record in the NBA.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are trending in the other direction. They have a chance to pick up their first three-game winning streak of the season. Cleveland defeated Memphis 114-107 on Friday to win back-to-back games for only the second time this season. In its previous attempt to win three straight in mid-November, the Cavs fell one point short against Philadelphia.
The Cavs showed great resolve against the Grizzlies by overcoming a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Jordan Clarkson scored a season-high 33 and Kevin Love scored 21, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:03 remaining, one of his five treys.
“There was a point in the fourth quarter where I didn’t think we’d be sitting up here with a ‘W,'” Cavaliers coach John Beilein said. “I love the way we fought back.”
Cleveland’s top scorer is Collin Sexton, who averages 17.6 points, while Love averages 16.1 points and a team-high 10.8 rebounds.
Atlanta blew an 18-point third quarter lead on Saturday when it lost to Brooklyn 122-112. The Hawks scored 73 points in the first half but got outscored 37-14 in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks wasted a 47-point night from guard Trae Young, his fourth time this year to reach that mark. Young is averaging 35.5 points over the last four games and averaging 29 points and 8.4 assists for the season.
“Frustrating,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “I thought our guys gave all that they had to put us in a position to win the game. The offense really let us down tonight — 39 points in the second half. We go 2-for-24 from 3 in the second half. I think you saw some glimpses of a young team lose their will, lose their confidence in a game where we had the will, we had the pace and control of the game.”
The return of Collins will add some experience to the Atlanta lineup. For the last two games the Hawks have started second-year players Young and Kevin Huerter and rookies Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter and Bruno Fernando. With an average of 21 years and 92 days, when first used against the Jazz on Dec. 19, it was the team’s youngest lineup and fourth youngest in the NBA since the league began tracking starters in 1970-71.
This will be the first of four meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals. The Hawks won two of three meetings against the Cavs last season.
–Field Level Media