4/18 Game Day Preview: Hawks vs. Pistons


Who?: Atlanta Hawks (5th in the East) vs. Detroit Pistons (10th in the East)

What?: NBA Eastern Conference showdown (Game #62; Home game #29)

When?: Wednesday April 18th, 2012– 7:30 (Eastern Time)

How?: SportSouth HD (TV), 680 AM & 98.9 FM

Other Atlanta Hawks Coverage: Atlanta Hawks Fan SiteAJC BlogPeachtree Hoops (SB Nation), Hoopinion (TrueHoop)


Projected Starting Lineups:

Atlanta Hawks:

PG: Jeff Teague | SG: Kirk Hinrich | SF: Joe Johnson | PF: Josh Smith | C: Jason Collins

Detroit Pistons:

PG: Brandon Knight | SG: Rodney Stuckey | SF: Tayshaun Prince | PF: Jason Maxiell | C: Greg Monroe


Injury/Inactive Players Report:

Atlanta: Al Horford (left pectoral surgery), Erick Dampier (calf) and Zaza Pachulia (sprained left foot)

Detroit: NONE


Current Records/Streak & Hot, Lukewarm, or Cold:

Records: The Atlanta Hawks are (36-25). The Detroit Pistons are( 23-38).

Streaks: ATLANTA– OVERALL: Won 1/ HOME: Lost 1/ AWAY: Won 1

DETROIT– OVERALL: Lost 2/ HOME: Lost 2/ AWAY: Won 1

Away/Home: The Pistons are (7-24) on the road. The Hawks are (19-9) at home.

Against +/- .500 teams: The Hawks are (25-5) vs. teams under .500. The Pistons are (8-19) vs. teams over .500.

Atlanta Hawks: Lukewarm. They were freezing cold going into Monday night’s game against the Raptors, but Jeff Teague and Ivan Johnson were able to rejuvenate a lifeless team and spark everyone else along the way.

Detroit Pistons: Hot. They’re 2-5 over their last six games and the first of those victories was against the Bobcats, but their 39-point win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday night was dominating.


Season/Past Season Series:

The Hawks are 2-1 against the Pistons this year, their lone loss coming on March 9th in a one point Detroit victory (86-85). Joe Johnson and Josh Smith combined for 39 points and Marvin Williams chipped in 16.

In the Hawks’ most recent 101-96 win over Detroit on April 6th, Jeff Teague had arguably his finest game of the season as he exploded for 24 points, 11 assists, and 5 rebounds. Rodney Stuckey scored 27 points in the Detroit loss.

Last season, the Hawks went 3-1 against the Pistons, making them 5-2 in their last seven meetings.


Game Preview:

In another crucial cupcake game for the Atlanta Hawks, they host the surging Detroit Pistons who are fresh off a 116-77 trouncing of the Cleveland Cavaliers and a tough 100-94 overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls.

The Hawks, who recently blew a chance to separate themselves from the Magic and get closer to clinching the 5th seed, will likely look for Jason Collins to again fill the starting void left by Zaza Pachulia and his sprained left foot. Collins has been a minor contributor in the last two games he’s started, playing a combined total of 16 minutes.

John Hollinger of ESPN recently tweeted this about the Hawks and Magic battling, or apparently not battling, for that potentially dreaded 5th slot in the East:

"Interesting playoff tanking situation emerging between Atlanta and Orlando — I imagine both greatly prefer facing Indy to facing Boston."

It’s a valid point as Boston is one of the most dangerous playoff teams in the league thanks to their stingy defense, strong coaching, and established roles. Most teams aren’t so lucky, including the Hawks. However, all it takes for the Celtics to completely fold is a minor injury to one of their vaunted “Big 3” or a less-than-100-percent Rondo. Clearly Boston is riding high now, but will they be in two weeks? Moreover, I don’t understand why any Hawks fan– or NBA fan, for that matter– would look forward to playing the Pacers, who by the way have the best record in the NBA over the last 11 games going 10-1. This 10-1 stretch has largely kicked the Hawks out of the three seed conversation and put them in a race with Orlando that will determine the 5th and 6th seed in the upcoming post season. With Dwight Howard likely out for the remainder of the season, it is doubtful that Orlando would surpass Atlanta in the standings, even though they currently hold the same record. However, both teams have four opponents with records greater than .500 left on their schedule, which could allow a slip-up for either or both teams. The Hawks own the tie breaker over the Magic thanks to a clean, 3-0 regular season sweep.

Still, we don’t have the Magic, Pacers, or Celtics up on Wednesday night, we have the Pistons. So it’s extremely important that the Hawks focus on the game at hand and avoid another lapse similar to the one on Sunday night in Philips. The Hawks are clearly the superior team here, but the one area every Hawks fan should be watching closely Wednesday night is how the front-court responds without Zaza and Horford, especially defensively. Detroit will throw both Greg Monroe and Jason Maxiell at the Hawks dilapidated front line, and while Smith will handle one of them (likely Monroe), the other should be in for a rather strong night as Ivan Johnson, Jason Collins, and Vlad-Rad will all rotate through.

Hopefully Teague puts on a performance reminiscent to that of April 6th when he torched the Pistons defense and got into the lane whenever he pleased. He’s been more up-and-down this season than any other Hawks player. During the final stretch of the season and the playoffs, we could sure use a lot of “up.”