No rest for weary Hawks after last-second loss

  • John Rohde
  • Special to the AJC
Dec 22, 2017
Hawks' Malcolm Delaney, left, tries to get the ball away from Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, right, in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Dec. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Kyle Phillips)

OKLAHOMA CITY – When Atlanta (7-25) hosts Dallas (9-24) tonight at 7:30 inside Philips Arena, it will be the Hawks’ eighth game in 15 days.

“It’s definitely one of those stretches when the schedule comes out … the coaching staff, everybody in the organization, you kind of circle it and know it’s going to test you and challenge you,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said before Friday night’s 120-117 last-second road loss to the OKC Thunder. “Fortunately, we’ve gotten a couple of our big guys back (Ersan Ilyasova and John Collins) and a little bit of health to kind of get us through it. But everybody in the league has them. Everybody has stretches where the depth of their roster is tested. We’ve been playing pretty good through it, to be honest with you.”

Saturday also will close out the Hawks’ eighth back-to-back of the young season.

“What are you, trying to depress me?” Budenholzer said, drawing laughter from reporters. “I didn’t know it was our eighth and I don’t know when we’re done.”

Atlanta will play 15 back-to-back this season.

“After (spending) a long time in the NBA you just learn that everybody has their scheduling complaints and just kind of put them in the drawer and get to work and really no excuses,” Budenholzer said.

Collins continues to excel, scoring 16 points and grabbing nine rebounds (five offensive) in 27 minutes against the Thunder.

The 19th overall pick in last June’s draft, Collins shot 7 for 8 from the field Friday and is shooting 60.6 percent from the field on the season while averaging 11.4 points and 7.1 boards.

“He’s got an athleticism and a confidence and a pop that translates well to our league and the way we’re playing and the way the league’s playing,” Budenholzer said of Collins, a Wake Forest product. “From day one … he’s finding ways to positively impact the game. He’s a hard worker, too. I think when you have that desire to be good and you’re a hard worker, I think it comes out on the court.”