Hawks struggle vs. undermanned C's

740476.jpg

Hawks struggle vs. undermanned C's

ATLANTA The Atlanta Hawks moved one step closer to clinching home court in the first round of the playoffs with Friday's 97-92 win over the Boston Celtics.

But Hawks coach Larry Drew was in no mood to celebrate the win, not when it came down to the final minute despite Boston playing without five of its top seven players who were either out because of an injury or simply had the night off.

"As far as I'm concerned," said Drew, "whether Boston lost the game or not, they accomplished what they wanted - to have his reserves come out and compete at a high level, and to take us down to the wire the way they did."

With a lineup on the floor that included E'Twaun Moore, Keyon Dooling, Marquis Daniels, Jajuan Johnson and Ryan Hollins, the Celtics had the ball with a chance to take the lead with the Hawks clinging to a 79-78 lead.

A jumper by Johnson was off the mark. Boston got the offensive rebound, but Moore missed a 3-pointer that seconds later resulted in a 3-pointer by Atlanta's Willie Green.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers heard a lot of praise bestowed upon his players who put up the kind of fight few not on the Celtics' payroll, anticipated.

"Nobody gave us a chance in hell tonight," said Celtics guardforward Marquis Daniels who hd a season-high 12 points. "We gave ourselves a chance to win the game. We were a couple shots away from it."

For Rivers, he was proud of how his team fought through some less-than-stellar circumstances. But regardless of who plays, the goal remains the same.

Because of that, the C's are able to keep Friday's loss in perspective.

"We didn't win the game," Rivers said. 'And that was our goal."

The same goes for the Hawks, who were able to come away with the victory.

But there's no question that it didn't sit well with them, especially knowing that there's a very good chance these two will see each other in the first round of the playoffs.

And the C's will have most, if not all, of the guys missing on Friday, back in the lineup.

Joe Johnson led all scorers with 30 points, and he acknowledges that the Hawks don't feel all that great about Friday's victory.

"For us," Johnson said. "It definitely sits a little uneasy. I don't feel like we brought our "A" game, particularly given they had a few guys out."

More than anything, it becomes a game in which a team's mental toughness and ability to focus on the job at hand - regardless of the opponent - is put to the test.

And the Hawks, truth be told, barely passed.

"As I told our players," Drew said, "I understand the psychological and mental side of a game like that where a team doesn't have its top six or seven players. I've been around this league long enough to see that situation. Either you handle it or you don't, and we didn't handle that side of it."

Jamie Collins says he'll play quarterback for Patriots if they need him

patriots-collins-092316.jpg

Jamie Collins says he'll play quarterback for Patriots if they need him

FOXBORO -- It's looking more and more like the Patriots will have options at quarterback Sunday against the Bills. Both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett threw at practice on Wednesday, and it appears that at least one of them, if not both, will be available for the final game of Tom Brady's suspension. 

Patriots receiver Julian Edelman is the likely candidate to jump behind center should the team run into an emergency, but on Wednesday another player threw his hat into the ring. 

"Yeah, I'll play," said linebacker Jamie Collins. "Whatever it is. I don't care what the level is. I don't care what the level is. Whatever it is they need me to do, I'm doing it."

That would be some kind of show.

At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, and with remarkable closing speed, Collins would be an intimidating run-first signal-caller. He's listed at two inches shorter and five pounds heavier than Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, and his NFL Scouting Combine 40-yard dash time was only 0.05 seconds slower than Newton's. 

Just to take this pie-in-the-sky idea even further, Collins can throw, too. Or he could at one point in time. He played quarterback at Franklin County High in Meadville, Miss. before heading off to Southern Mississippi to play all over the Golden Eagles defense. As a high school senior, he cracked 1,000 yards both on the ground and through the air.

Asked if he saw himself back then as a future star in the NFL as a passer, Collins shook his head.

"Nah," he said. "I ain't even see myself as a quarterback in the NFL."

The Patriots would be just fine with Collins sticking at linebacker. He had one of the best games of his career against the Texans last week, racking up 14 tackles and picking off Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler. He also made the calls in the middle of the defense, which is a job that typically falls to Dont'a Hightower, but Collins took over with Hightower out with a knee injury.

"Jamie Collins, he's a beast, man," said safety Duron Harmon after the game. "I tell you what, I've seen a lot of football players play, and he's definitely one of my favorite players to just watch. You just get caught up sometimes seeing all the amazing stuff he does on the field, you just sit in awe. I'm so happy he's on my team, I'll tell you that."

And the team is happy he's at linebacker. But imagine him at quarterback?