Missing coaches, patchwork lineups dot Hawks-Blazers matchup

National Sports

The Atlanta Hawks will have reinforcements for their beleaguered roster when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.

The Hawks had 12 players in COVID-19 protocol in the middle of last week and engineered some roster patchwork by lining up players on 10-day contracts. That allowed them to have nine players — one above the minimum — for Friday’s 121-118 road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“There are only a couple of us from our full roster on this team, but we’re really trying to find ways to win,” star guard Trae Young said afterward. “It was a great way to end the year. We had a lot of success in 2021 and we expect to have even more success in 2022.”

On Saturday, six Atlanta players cleared the protocol, including Kevin Huerter, Danilo Gallinari and Delon Wright. Huerter, who missed six games, told reporters on Sunday that he needs to get his conditioning back.

The Hawks still have five players in the protocol — including John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Cam Reddish hurt his right ankle against Cleveland but is listed as probable.

The Trail Blazers also will have absences, topped by star guard Damian Lillard sitting out due to his lingering abdominal injury. CJ McCollum (lung) will miss his 12th straight game.

Portland has four players in COVID-19 protocol, including Jusuf Nurkic and Cody Zeller. Both big men are listed as doubtful.

The Trail Blazers will have coach Chauncey Billups back on the bench after he missed three games while in the COVID-19 protocol. As Billups was cleared on Sunday, Scott Brooks, who ran the team in Billups’ absence, entered the protocol.

Atlanta will be without coach Nate McMillan, who entered the protocol on Saturday. Top assistant Chris Jent also is out, so Joe Prunty is expected to coach the Hawks on Monday as they try to end their difficulties in Portland, which includes losses in each of the past four visits.

Prunty’s instructions could be as basic as get the ball to Young. The 23-year-old who ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring (27.5) and third in assists (9.4) is enjoying an impressive scoring streak by reaching at least 25 points in each of his last 15 appearances.

Young had 35 points and 11 assists in the win over Cleveland. He has scored 30 or more on nine occasions during the run and has 10 double-doubles.

The win over the Cavaliers was just the fourth in the past 13 games for Atlanta but Young said he isn’t concerned about the club’s 16-19 record.

“We started out 14-20 last year and won eight games straight,” Young said of a season in which the Hawks reached the Eastern Conference finals. “This league is all about runs and who is hot. I ain’t worried.”

Portland, meanwhile, has dropped four straight games and 14 of its last 17.

The Trail Blazers dropped the four contests by an average of 19.3 and allowed an average of 125.5 points. They were bludgeoned 139-106 by the host Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

Brooks was not pleased with what he witnessed during the loss to the Lakers.

“I don’t think we played with enough force,” Brooks said. “They were attacking on both ends of the floor and we were back on our heels. You can’t do that against good teams.”

Ben McLemore matched his season high of 28 points and knocked down six 3-pointers against the Lakers. He figures to get a lot of shots on Monday with Lillard and McCollum both out.

“He was on fire early and then you knew, sooner or later, his legs were going to get a little tired,” Brooks said of McLemore. “And then he got a nice little second wind late in the game. It’s good. We need him. We need bodies.”

–Field Level Media

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