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Pistons inch past Hawks

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Random thoughts from the home opener against the Hawks:

Jason Maxiell looked good, huh? 15 points, eight boards and four blocks. The guy was aggressive all night long (he at least two goaltending calls, as well) but managed to stay out of foul trouble with only one called against him. He played 26 minutes, and as I mentioned at HOOPSWORLD, he's the one keeping Amir Johnson on the bench. (Well, that and the fact that Amir isn't 100% healthy yet.)

As for Detroit, it was good to have Rip Hamilton back in the mix: 21 points on 10-15 shooting. The no free throws was odd (as was the fact he fouled out), but he seemed to score many of his points on the fast break. I got a few of his post-game comments up in the HOOPSWORLD post-game blog linked above. It was his first game in a month, and it wasn't too bad.

Plus, it was good to see Chauncey Billups put the game on ice by drawing a foul with 1.9 seconds left, though it would have been nice if he hit both of his free throws. Josh Smith's desperation three at the buzzer sailed over the backboard, but after watching Marvin Williams hit a half-court three at halftime, I'm sure a lot of people tuning into the game were holding their breath. (Of course, even if he hit both to put the Pistons up by two, a desperation three could have still sunk them, but still, being Mr. Big Shot means hitting clutch free throws, right?)

The Hawks are wasting their time with Tyronn Lue in the starting lineup. He scored six on 2-7 shooting but had just three assists and was -12 for the night. Rookie Acie Law, on the other hand, scored 11 on 5-6 shooting, and even though he had five turnovers with no assists, he was +11 on the night. I think having the plus/minus column in the NBA.com box scores is a blessing and a curse, since it's going to be really easy to rely on it blindly while ignoring actual game circumstances, but Law simply looked good out there, whereas Lue seemed like a non-factor.

All in all, the Hawks looked damn good: they have a lot of solid, young players (if he played for any other team, Josh Smith would be a household name already), and the pieces really seem to be falling into place. They went 7-1 in the preseason and already beat Dallas. I'm not saying they'll be an actual contender, but I won't be surprised if they sneak into consideration for the 7th or 8th spot, where they'd be an extremely dangerous matchup in the first round as a team playing with house money and nothing to lose. Obviously, I'm getting a little ahead of myself considering they have 80 games to go, but if you have League Pass, keep an eye on them this year.

I'm sure some people would have expected some kind of blowout, but hey, it's better than last year's opener, right? The starters played well, the bench came through when it had to and at least one youngster had a standout game. If that's the recipe for most of the games this year, it'll be a very good season.

Pistons 91, Hawks 90 box score [NBA.com]