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Pistons try to slay the Sunday dragon in Atlanta

Be warned: this is one of those sneaky early games with a 2 PM tip-off. Big ups to Kevin for the preview, leave your thoughts in the comments. -- MW

By Kevin Sawyer

Hawks: 16-10 (10-2 Home)
Margin: +2.0 ppg (+3.3 home)
Last 10: 6-4 (margin +3.3)

Pistons: 14-10 (7-5 road)
Margin: even (-1.5 Road)
Last 10: 6-4 (margin +3.3)

Oppo research:

If someone told me that a Hawks team that won 37 games last year would lose Josh Childress and suffer a disappointing start from Josh Smith, and that they would be on pace for the 4 seed in the East, I would call that someone a liar. Then that person would be offended, and it would be awkward between us even after I apologized.

Alas, it is so. Atlanta has ridden a Mike Bibby resurgence and Joe Johnson’s usual hot start to a 16-10 record, with a home record that ranks 4th in the NBA. The Hawks have one of the best starting fives in basketball, with no starters holding a player efficiency rating under 16.2.

Once they go to their bench, however, it’s a different story. Pistons castoffs Mo Evans and Flip Murray headline a bench blob that includes Zaza Pachulia, a center who doesn’t even shoot 40% from the field. Acie Law was drafted ahead of Thad Young and Rodney Stuckey. Ouch.

The Hawks are not quite as good as their record indicates. Joe Johnson is returning to earth, they are playing .500 ball since a scorching 6-0 start, and their home scoring margin isn’t nearly as intimidating as their record. This is primarily a jump-shooting team, and if the shots aren’t falling, the Hawks are.

The Drama:

This is shaping up to be a first round preview, as the big three are starting to distance themselves from the pack. Are there any teams in this league that don’t feature former Pistons?

Keys for Detroit:

Man the perimeter: The Hawks live from outside. If they can’t get it going from there, they don’t have a lot of other options. What’s the point of a three guard lineup if you can’t protect the three-point stripe?

Go for early foul trouble: Atlanta’s second unit can’t match up with any lineup the Pistons can present. In particular, I would love to see 30 minutes for Zaza and Acie Law.

Drink plenty of OJ and Iced Mochas: It’s good for hangovers. Just a tip.

Question of the game:

Can we win on a Sunday? To date, we are 0-5 with an average margin of -15.8. In other words, based on past performance, we literally would not be favored to beat the 1972-73 76ers on a Sunday. Considering we have 11 more Sunday games to play (5 on national TV), there’s no time like the present to right the ship.