Tonight the Pistons will be in Atlanta to play the Hawks at 8:00pm EST. The Pistons are on the second night of a back to back after last night's game in Miami (which they won in close fashion.) and the Hawks are coming in on one days rest after playing against a Lillardless (and McCollumless) Blazers in Atlanta. (a game which they won, I am actually watching the replay of that game while currently writing this.)
The Them: The Hawks are right alongside the Pistons in the Thunderdome of the Eastern Conference playoff race, and while I would assume that the Hawks will stay towards the top of that race as the season goes on, but at this point I am not going to assume anything with the Eastern Conference. At some point the teams have to separate themselves at least a little bit more, and who knows where teams will end up. Regardless, the Hawks are a very solid team, they are not as good as last year, but still very solid. The offense is humming along at a very solid OffRtg. of 103.3, but the defense is a little bit on the weaker side, with a DefRtg. of 101.0. The Hawks still are a team of lots of good players and excellent ball movement. Al Horford is the Hawks best player, hitting pick and pop jumpers and playing awesome defense. Paul Millsap is still chugging along as a hugely underrated player, averaging an efficient 17.8 points per game (although his 3 ball has not been very good.) and is also a very solid defender. Jeff Teague runs a very effective point for the Hawks, and has shot the ball especially well from deep (37%) although he is not an especially good defender. Kyle Korver is still dropping bombs all over the place after running around screens, although he is "only" shooting 41% from deep. (I say only because literally the Hawks announcers were saying that he has been off this year. I wish the Pistons had a shooter like that.) And despite calls for him to be removed following the past game these two teams played, Kent Bazemore is still starting (although he has lost the job for a few games but has been back) and has really found his shot, and is still a highly disruptive defender. Off the bench Dennis Schroder is a speed demon who can't really shoot, but is still a really freaking good backup PG. Thabo Sefolosha and Mike Scott are both very solid 2 way wings with some versatility. Tiago Splitter is still a very solid 3rd big, and Mike Muscala has been able to hold onto some regular minutes and has done ok. All in all, this is a deep team with a pair of truly excellent players at the top in Horford and Millsap. While I don't think either of them are as good as Reggie and certainly not Andre. The Hawks are somewhat like the Pistons if the Pistons had 2 or 3 really good bench players. (so perhaps what the Pistons will be once they get fully healthy.) The Hawks are probably better than the Pistons, but they are fairly close.
Matchups to watch:
- Andre vs. Everyone: Outside of Splitter, the Hawks do not have anyone who figures to stand much chance, and this played a big role last time these teams played. Al Horford will make Andre work on defense, but Horford is just not really big enough to handle Andre on the other end. And even Splitter should not stand much of a chance. Simply put, this should be a good game for Andre. The only worry here is that Horford attacks him early and often and manages to draw a few fouls on Andre. Other than that, he should at least come close to another 20/20 game.
- Pistons vs. Guarding Millsap: Millsap had a very good game last time these team's played, and he figures to be able to do so again. He is probably just too good for Ersan to effectively handle, which could mean that Tolly will get a bit more playing time tonight. Although it must be noted that the Pistons have handled the big scorers types much better as of late. The reality is that they just need to keep Millsap from being super efficient. But really, Millsap is just very good. And that should worry the Pistons more than anything else.
- Greater Morris vs. Attacking the mismatches: Morris has the potential to have a very nice game tonight, he will likely end up being guarded by either Korver or Bazemore for most of the night. Bazemore figures to be too small for Morris, and Korver is probably too slow. Either way, Morris should be able to get quite a few chances to go to work against a guy he has a clear edge against. Even if he does not put up a ton of points, if he can get his numbers more efficiently than normal that is a big advantage to the Pistons.
- Steve Blake vs. Guarding Shroder: This was a real issue last time, and figures to be again. Blake can't really guard anyone anymore, but he especially can't guard guys who are really fast. Shroder is really fast, and managed to almost single handedly win the game for the Hawks in their last meeting. The Pistons will have to find some way to hold him down.
- Bench vs. Law of averages: The bench freaking exploded against Miami last night. And that is great, but there is one issue. The law of averages can be a real bitch sometimes, and that says that after a huge night last night, there is a decent chance that the Pistons bench will miss damn near every shot they take. This would be an issue.
So in conclusion
Cackle with knowing glee if:
Andre is living in the paint, grabbing boards, and putting in jump hooks left and right.
Marcus Morris is shooting over Bazemore like he is a chair.
The Pistons bench is just in a hot streak and continue to hit everything they look at.
Run for the hills if:
Horford manages to get Andre into some foul trouble.
Paul Millsap is scoring early and often.
Dennis Shroder is making Bratwurst out of Steve Blake.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Andre has a freaking massive game.
Kyle Korver hits 5 3s.
Dennis Shroder causes SVG to try Jennings. (plz)
Pistons ride a monster game from Andre to a win.
The Hawks are good. The Pistons are good. Both are really well coached and have some really good players. This should be a really fun game.