Hawks raise alarm about ‘illegal’ screens from Knicks

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The Hawks already thought the NBA favored the big-market Knicks in the playoffs, and now they seem to be wondering if there’s visual proof.

One week after coach Nate McMillan was fined $25,000 by the league for “detrimental public comments asserting bias,” the Hawks are drawing attention to the physicality with which the Knicks are setting screens.

“I thought they were setting some screens that need to be looked at,” McMillan said on the eve of Friday’s Game 3 in a tied series. “That’s a part of this game. Certainly in the playoffs you have to set screens with [defensive] pressure that teams and guards will be applying, and we have to do a better job of setting screens. But I thought [in Game 2] they set some screens that the league has to look at.”

One particular example occurred in the third quarter, when Taj Gibson hip-checked R.J. Barrett’s defender and allowed him to drive for a layup.

“The screens that have been made and the elbows that have been flying the first two games are illegal,” forward John Collins said matter-of-factly. “They are not basketball plays. That’s how I feel. Obviously, the officials have the ability to make their calls and we have to live with that. I wasn’t vulgar or disrespectful in any way when those calls were made, but they are illegal.”

Collins, who averaged 17.6 points in 29.3 minutes per game during the regular season, was a non-factor in Game 2 because he was saddled with foul trouble. He was scoreless on just two shot attempts.

“It’s tough on the rebounds right now,” Collins said. “I have to do better. I’ve proven myself to be a high-level rebounder in this league … but there’s a little more to it going on down there in the paint that I feel like is making it a little tougher.”

It doesn’t take a master translator to figure out Collins is hinting about uncalled fouls.

The Hawks blew a 13-point halftime lead in Game 2 as the Knicks won the hustle plays to spark a comeback. The Hawks are home for Games 3 and 4, which, if you believe in home-court advantage, could turn the whistles.

“I don’t want to get myself in trouble here,” Collins said. “All I’ll say is one side is extremely physical to a fault. In certain scenarios, I feel like the other side doesn’t always get the good side of the whistle. That’s just playoff basketball. Something we have to play through and not let get us frustrated.”

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