Pistons Look to Nip at Hawks' High Hopes for The Postseason
4/8/2014, 12:19 p.m.
ATLANTA - In their last 10 games, both the Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons are struggling to find a groove by going 3-7 respectively.
The Hawks are currently 2-1 versus the Pistons this season. With momentum on their side the Hawks (34-42) are currently on a two-game winning streak after beating the Indiana Pacers the no.2 seed in the East Conference this past weekend. The Hawks are also currently 3 games in front of the New York Knicks for the no.8 seed in the East.
Tonight’s opponent, the Detroit Pistons (28-49) are coming off a victory over the Boston Celtics, but they have been less than stellar away from the Motor City, as they ride a three-game road-losing streak.
The key matchups in this game will be the guard play of the Hawks’ Jeff Teague versus the Pistons’ Brandon Jennings, Paul Millsap versus the 3-headed monster (i.e. frontcourt players Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond), and the x-factor matchup of Lou Williams versus Rodney Stuckey.
Brandon Jennings has struggled lately with his jump shot but he can quickly heat up with any little space, because he is willing to take any shot. He is also a left-handed guard, with a lethal crossover, which helps him to create space. So, Jeff Teague will have to stay grounded and balanced. If Smith, Monroe or Drummond set a pick, Teague needs to go over the top to prevent an open jumper, which Jennings is able to knock down with his range.
The advantage from Teague’s standpoint is his strength and ability to get to the hole with ease. Unlike Jennings, Teague will not pull from anywhere; he has great shot-selection, which can help him out playing Jennings tonight.
Paul Millsap is averaging 19 points per game versus the Pistons this season. These points do not come easy. The All-Star forward will most likely deal with a rotation of bodies on him, from the athletic Smith to the big bruisers, in Drummond and Monroe.
The battle tonight will be won on the boards. If that is the case, the Pistons should have an advantage. Drummond is coming off a 19-point, 20-rebound performance, as Monroe had 21 points and 7 rebounds. The Pistons are fourth in the NBA in rebounding, with the Hawks being 28th.
To prevent being dominated on the glass, the Hawks have to get back on defense, making sure not to leak, but instead help crash the boards to prevent offensive rebounds.
The last matchup is the bench where you have Rodney Stuckey, who is coming off a 26 point game versus the Celtics, and Lou Williams, who sat out versus the reeling Indiana Pacers with a hamstring, is a threat to score anytime. If Williams plays, which he is expected to do tonight, this will be the matchup to watch.
Stuckey, the former starter of the Pistons, who took the sixth man role when the Pistons brought in Jennings, is a strong slashing point guard capable of getting to the rim at will. Stuckey is averaging 15 points and 4 assists in his career versus the Hawks.
Williams is a shooter with a pure form and stroke. He has struggled in the first half all season long but he will make up for it in the second. Williams is averaging 15 points versus the Pistons this season but he can go for 25-plus any night.
Once again, Josh Smith returns to his first NBA home arena to cap off the Piston’s season series versus the Hawks at Philips Arena.
The magic number for the Hawks is three games, in order to secure a postseason spot. Let the countdown begin.