Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Pistons head to Atlanta after a short Christmas break for a tough challenge in Al Horford and the Hawks.
Game tips at 7:30 EST
Detroit Pistons: 9-21 (3-13 road)
Atlanta Hawks: 16-9 (9-5 home)
Detroit pistons tickets
A well-timed stint against the Wizards turned a six-game losing streak around to the Pistons' second winning streak of the season. They face a real team tonight in the Hawks, who have managed to improve despite moving two solid starters to gain significant cap flexibility.
Al Horford is back from injury this year to lead the Hawks, despite not playing his best ball. He remains an intelligent, physical force in the middle and has been putting up some big minutes so far this year. Lou Williams has predictably been a fantastic acquisition by Danny Ferry. So far this season, he has thoroughly out-played Joe Johnson on a fraction of the salary.
The rest of the team is a bit of an enigma.
Kyle Korver is playing 28 minutes per game and turning in a career year and Zaza Pachulia continues to be sneakily satisfactory. Josh Smith is the opposite, far less effective than perceived and continuing to play a huge role in the offense despite being extremely inefficient. But his defensive playmaking and rebounding abilities keep him from being a complete black hole. Jeff Teague continues to progress as a fairly solid, under-the radar point guard.
For the Pistons, well, perhaps it's just a couple of wins against a crummy team but there really does seem to be some good things going for them. Moose seems like he's through his early season shooting slump, averaging 18 ppg on 54% shooting over the past six games. Stuckey has averaged 16 ppg over the past 10 games with a 57% TS and 5.6 apg with only 2.2 to/g over that stretch. And Drummond continues to enjoy his fantastic rookie season with a gradual increase in minutes.
Two slumps have popped up though. Kyle Singler has cooled off after his surprising start, shooting only 34% over the past 11 games. Brandon Knight is also going through a rough stretch, shooting 29% in his last 5 games.
Keys to the Game
Feed the Moose: The Monroe-Horford matchup is an interesting one. Horford dominated Monroe's rookie year. Last year both were equally ineffective in their first meeting, equally solid in the second. Even if it's a draw, the Pistons will need at least some production from Monroe to pull the upset.
Bull-Moose Party: Copied. Pasted.
Backcourt production: Tonight may be an interesting night for the backcourt. And, as MFBP mentioned earlier today, particularly if Prince isn't able to go. Knight and Stuckey starting would be the natural thought, but they haven't seem to be able to get going at the same time. And what about Will Bynum? That would mean we'd have to see him. YSWIDT? Perhaps this could be an opportunity for Jonas to jump back into the rotation?
Question of the Game
Are the Hawks really that good? They boast their best record since 2009 and are third in the East. But their point differential is down from last year and it's hard to see any facet where that they particularly stand out. Certainly, the Hawks are the better team than the Pistons but the game does seem winnable.
While you're waiting for the game, check out Mike Payne's excellent Q&A over at Hawks.com. As always, great stuff.