Hawks get Collins back, escape with win vs. Wizards

Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) blocks a shot by Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) blocks a shot by Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Credit: AP

It was closer than it should have been, but the Hawks (31-32) picked up a key divisional win on the second night of a back-to-back against the Wizards, 117-114, Friday in Washington.

Next up, the Hawks will play in Detroit Monday.

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Below are some takeaways from the win:

1. After missing seven games with a right foot strain, John Collins returned for the Hawks. Collins came off the bench and finished with nine points, six rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal, playing 25 minutes in his first game back, with Danilo Gallinari (10 points, three rebounds) still in the starting lineup. Getting Collins back is key for the Hawks as they aim to finish the season strong. He was a little winded and rusty in his first game back, he said postgame, but was happy to get back playing.

“It was good,” Collins said of how his foot felt in his first game back. “Sort of the same thing, sorta stiff, I should say, just trying to get it back used to NBA movement, cuts, contact, all that good stuff. So no complaints. But obviously gonna be probably a little sore tomorrow, rehab, do what I need to do to keep it right. Go from there.”

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Washington Wizards forward Corey Kispert, left, defends against Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Washington. The Hawks won 117-114. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Credit: AP

Washington Wizards forward Corey Kispert, left, defends against Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Washington. The Hawks won 117-114. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Credit: AP

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Washington Wizards forward Corey Kispert, left, defends against Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Washington. The Hawks won 117-114. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

2. Although the Hawks led by as much as 14 in the first half and by nine at halftime, the lead got down to one, 80-79, when the Wizards took advantage of the Hawks’ shooting going cold to start the third quarter. Atlanta got some big shots from Bogdan Bogdanovic (17 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals), including a buzzer-beater to get a little breathing room at 93-84 entering the fourth, but overall struggled in the second half.

In fact, the Hawks couldn’t put the Wizards away until the very end – in the final minute, they got a much-needed stop courtesy of a block by Collins, but Trae Young (25 points, eight assists, four rebounds) missed a 3-pointer and the Wizards’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (28 points, five rebounds, five assists) made a 3 out of a timeout to narrow it to 113-111. Young made two free throws to put the Hawks up four, but they gave up another triple to Raul Neto before the Wizards were forced to foul and Young went 2-for-2 from the line to eke out the win.

“I like our aggressiveness attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line 34 times tonight, keeping the pressure,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “We were in the penalty pretty early in most of the quarters tonight.”

3. It went down to the wire, but Washington (28-34) never led in this game. This matchup carried a little extra weight, from a standings perspective, given the Wizards have been the team directly behind the Hawks for a while now. The Hawks move to No. 9 in the Eastern Conference with the win, now a half-game ahead of the No. 10 Hornets and 2 1/2 games ahead of the Wizards at No. 11. Atlanta has 19 games left in the regular season to chip away in the standings, and is now just one game under .500 at 31-32.

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Atlanta Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter hits a 3-point shot during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Washington. The Hawks won 117-114. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Credit: AP

Atlanta Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter hits a 3-point shot during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Washington. The Hawks won 117-114. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter hits a 3-point shot during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Washington. The Hawks won 117-114. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

4. De’Andre Hunter continues to bounce back from a rough shooting stretch, following up an 18-point performance (53.8% from the field) in Thursday’s win vs. the Bulls with a team-high 26 points, tying a season-high. He went 8-for-12 from the field, 3-for-5 from 3-point range and 7-for-7 from the line, adding two rebounds, one assist and a steal.

“I wouldn’t ever say I lost my confidence, just had a couple bad games,” Hunter said. “But definitely feels good when shots are going in. ... Everyone has bad games. I’m not the only one. The greatest players in the world have bad games, so I just put a lot of work in. So I’m never not confident in myself.”

5. With four minutes left in the fourth quarter, after making a pass, Kevin Huerter exited the game and went straight back to the locker room. Huerter is experiencing soreness in his left shoulder, but McMillan didn’t have any more information after the game on the seriousness of the injury.

Hawks 117, Wizards 114

Stat of the game: 28-for-34 (what the Hawks shot from the line, dwarfing the Wizards at 8-for-9)

Star of the game: Hunter (led the Hawks in scoring with 26 points, continuing to bounce back from a rough shooting stretch)

Quotable: “That’s what JC does, he brings energy to everything. To the locker room, to the floor, to the game, to practice. He’s a ball of energy. ... Really good to see him back out on the floor.” (McMillan on the Hawks getting Collins back and the effect he has on the team)