Prince responds with impressive three-game run

Atlanta Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) reacts as Phoenix Suns forward Dragan Bender (35) looks on as an NBA basketball game comes to an end Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Atlanta Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) reacts as Phoenix Suns forward Dragan Bender (35) looks on as an NBA basketball game comes to an end Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Credit: John Amis

Credit: John Amis

When Taurean Prince thinks about his play this season – especially the past three games – he literally points to his head.

The Hawks starting small forward has averaged 28.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists in the three-game stretch. He had his fifth double-double of the season with 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in a 129-117 loss to the Hornets Thursday. The performances came in the three games since Prince was benched in the second half of a loss at the Pacers last week.

“I feel like the points will come just off what we run in the flow of our offense,” Prince said. “I’m more pleased with my decision making. Not only that, but the few turnovers I do have every game. It’s really surprising and gratifying to me to let me know I’m growing and getting better from an intellectual area and getting better up here (points to head).”

Prince had a career-high 38 points and season-highs of  seven 3-pointers, 13 3-point attempts, nine free throws and 10 free-throw attempts against the Bulls this week. It was the first game since he played just 18 minutes with three points against the Pacers in a move coach Mike Budenholzer described only as a coach’s decision. He has played the past two games with an expanded burden as the Hawks lost starting shooting guard Kent Bazemore for the season with a bone bruise in his knee.

Prince is one of the few left standing and the Hawks finish the season with a roster that, after trades and injuries, heavily relies on rookies and two-way and 10-day contract players.

“Ever since I’ve been in the league, ball screens is what I’ve been working on,” said Prince, himself just in his second season. “Ball-handling. Put myself in certain positions to make plays. It just so happens the past two seasons I haven’t really needed to do that because of who we’ve had on the floor – Baze, Dennis (Schroder), last year with Paul (Millsap) and those type of guys. It’s not all about what guys are capable of doing and what you see. Obviously, what you all see is what you limit us to. But at the end of the day, we are working on a lot of things. Situations like this brings out the best in players. It’s like a flower. You see it grow.”

Prince also has a game-winning shot to his credit this season, scoring in the final seconds of a 113-112 win over the Suns on March 4, the Hawks last win before now five straight losses.

As the Hawks rebuild they will add more players through the draft to join Prince and the young nucleus moving forward. He sees progress despite the Hawks’ 20-49 record with 13 games remaining.

“We are getting better in certain areas,” Prince said. “It’s not easy having new guys every week. No excuses. We’ve done a great job of putting all the distractions aside and try to get better with who we have.

“… We’ve done a good job with that with our vet being out in (Bazemore). Other guys have stepped up.”

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