John Collins flips switch in second half, helps evens series

Hawks forward John Collins reacts to hitting a three pointer against Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons during the fourth quarter of a 103-100 victory over the 76ers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday, June 14, 2021, in Atlanta.  (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Combined ShapeCaption
Hawks forward John Collins reacts to hitting a three pointer against Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons during the fourth quarter of a 103-100 victory over the 76ers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday, June 14, 2021, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Hanging on to a one-point lead with 16.6 seconds left, the Hawks’ defense walked out of their huddle and waited as the 76ers dribbled the ball down the court. John Collins, who moments before suffered an unforced turnover, opened his body toward the paint, awaiting the presence of Joel Embiid.

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Seven-foot, 280-pound Embiid received the ball and drove down the center of the lane. He went up and was met by Collins and Clint Capela. Ben Simmons of the Sixers got the rebound, but turned the ball over, denied by the Hawks’ big men again as the ball went out of bounds with 8.2 seconds left.

After two Trae Young free throws, a desperation 3-pointer from Seth Curry went by the wayside, and the Hawks’ held on for a 103-100 victory to even the Eastern Conference semifinal series at 2-2 on Monday night at State Farm Arena.

“End-of-the-game situations never really turn out how they’re supposed to, honestly, if I’m being real,” Collins said, describing the last play that ended with a Philadelphia turnover. “The only situation I’m happy about us coming to is a win, Seth missing that last shot and whatever happening in that 15 seconds. I don’t care. He missed. We go home happy, and we move on to the next game.”

Collins, who came into the night having struggled to match up against the size and experience of Philadelphia in games 2 and 3, had as strong a third quarter as he and the rest of the Hawks could have hoped for.

And it was a much welcomed performance for a team that couldn’t manage to hit any sort of shot in the first half, staring at a 13-point deficit. Collins shot only 2-of-8 for four points and five rebounds in a little under 16 minutes in the first half.

It looked as if it would be a similar outcome from in Game 3 on Friday.

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Big win for the Hawks: John Collins slams home one of several key baskets for the Hawks during their second-half comeback in Monday's 103-100 Game 4 victory over the 76ers at State Farm Arena. The win tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece heading into Wednesday's Game 5 in Philadelphia.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Big win for the Hawks: John Collins slams home one of several key baskets for the Hawks during their second-half comeback in Monday's 103-100 Game 4 victory over the 76ers at State Farm Arena. The win tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece heading into Wednesday's Game 5 in Philadelphia.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Big win for the Hawks: John Collins slams home one of several key baskets for the Hawks during their second-half comeback in Monday's 103-100 Game 4 victory over the 76ers at State Farm Arena. The win tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece heading into Wednesday's Game 5 in Philadelphia.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Instead, Collins and the offense made shots they weren’t hitting in the first half and came down from each dunk, 3-pointer or layup waving their hands and working to keep the sellout crowd involved. In the third quarter alone, Collins had three dunks, one of which over Embiid.

“I tried to use some of that (first half) frustration to motivate the team anyway I can,” Collins said. “I’m trying to do whatever I can to help my team win, so if that means dunking on a couple people, you have to switch into that mode and go do it.”

“Just like a long 3 can affect our team in a positive way and get the crowd involved, JC dunks and his putback dunks are the same way,” Young said of his teammate. “He’s a big reason why we won tonight.”

The Hawks won the third quarter 31-20 to trail only 82-80 going into the final period.

During every Sixers timeout, Collins was one of several Hawks jumping around and talking with his teammates to keep the level high. That energy carried over to the defense, an area that the 76ers owned the past two games.

“John did a great job of getting us second and third opportunities,” Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan said. “He brought a lot of energy. He was playing with a lot of urgency in that second half.”

On defense, Collins played with as much passion as he did when going up for a dunk. He was smart. In previous games this series and the first few games in the series against New York. He suffered fouls you might see from a young player, but Monday he had only three, two of them coming in the fourth quarter.

But he also praised the work of his teammates.

“Great job by (Clint Capela) guarding (Embiid) in isolation all night, trying to make every shot he got as tough as possible,” Collins said.

On Monday, he finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds, a block and shot 40% from the field.

In a series where the Sixers largely have been able to do what they wanted in the paint, Collins and the Hawks held their ground and guaranteed that Monday wasn’t the last game in Atlanta this season.

“I thought Collins was the guy tonight,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “Just hitting the glass all night and keeping things alive. I just thought they were the more physical, tougher team. And it wasn’t close tonight.”