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John Collins: Hawks Winning 3 Game 1s 'Definitely Put Some Respect on Our Names'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2021

MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 23: John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks celebrates during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 23, 2021 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images).
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks are kings of Game 1s. 

Atlanta won Game 1 of its third consecutive playoff series with Wednesday's 116-113 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. It also won Game 1 in the first round against the New York Knicks and Game 1 in the second round against the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.

"It's definitely put some respect on our names," John Collins told reporters when talking about the Game 1 wins. 

He continued, saying, "I feel like a lot of people haven't watched us until now."

While Trae Young was the star with 48 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, the Hawks wouldn't have stolen home-court advantage for the third consecutive series without Collins.

He posted a double-double of 23 points and 15 rebounds and provided the help for Young that Atlanta needed. That was especially true after the Hawks fell behind in the first half with a number of possessions turning into No. 11 or bust.

Young's initial brilliance drew even more defensive attention from the Bucks, which opened up lobs to Collins down low. One even went off the backboard as the pair took over in the third quarter, but it was Collins' play down the stretch that proved to be the difference.

He scored seven points in the final four minutes after Milwaukee seized a seven-point lead, three of which came on a critical triple to trim the lead to one. The next basket in the game was Clint Capela's putback in the final 30 seconds to give the Hawks the lead for good.

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Young will generate plenty of headlines if he continues to play like he did Wednesday, but the Hawks are going to need others to deliver if they are going to eliminate Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks and earn a spot in the NBA Finals.

Collins is the logical No. 2 option at this point, especially with Bogdan Bogdanovic dealing with a knee injury that limited him throughout Game 1.

If the big man plays the secondary role to Young's go-to option as effectively as he did in Game 1, the Hawks could earn even more respect on their names by winning the championship.

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