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Pistons at Hawks preview: Josh Smith returns home

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After a solid win against the Knicks last night, the Pistons are on the road in Atlanta today for the first set of a home-and-home against the Hawks.

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Be sure to check out Matt's recap of yesterday's win. It's nice to see the team turning some competitive games into wins, even if the opponent isn't the highest caliber.

The situation

The Hawks are another team with a number of new faces, including one on the sideline. However, their transition is off to a much smoother start. They're one of the few teams in the Eastern Conference over .500 and are posting impressive numbers on both sides of the ball.

Danny Ferry seemed to apply an interesting strategy of roster construction where he built a team that freed up more touches for two of his most efficient offensive players. As a result Al Horford and Jeff Teague have taken big steps forward this season, each making a strong claim as the top player at their position in the East so far. The rest of the roster is filled with solid role players who fulfill a specific task. He's mad scientist, that Danny Ferry.

The result isn't particularly exciting, but it's working. Their offense is putting up the fifth best effective field goal percentage in the league while the defense is holding teams to the ninth best.

It'll be a homecoming for Josh Smith, who has been the face of the up-and-down start for the Pistons. As Packey mentioned this morning, he's not sure what fans' responses will be. But if he continues his play since his benching against the Warriors, well, he'll be able to show off Good Josh Smith for the friends and family. Over the past three games he's scoring 19.3 points per game with 56% true shooting, 7 rebounds, 4.7 assists alongside 2.7 turnovers, 2.7 steals, and 1.7 blocks.

Keys to the game

Detroit backcourt: The Pistons could be without three point guards tonight. Chauncey Billups and Will Bynum have already missed several games with leg injuries, and Brandon Jennings will be a game-time decision with a stomach virus. Peyton Siva and Rodney Stuckey split the point guard duties down the stretch against the Knicks last night and did a capable job.

Josh Smith: Smith will present a tough matchup for the Hawks with DeMarre Carroll as the only player able to match up with him physically. Good Josh Smith who uses his immense physical gifts to his advantage could have another banner day. Bad Josh Smith who gets lost defensively could let Kyle Korver go nuts from three and drop 40 points or something.

Defense: The team put up a stronger defensive performance against the Knicks last night, but still boast the league-worst defensive rating. This is basically this year's Feed the Moose until it gets where it belongs. With a strong cast of efficient, understated offensive performers the Hawks are basically the anti-Knicks. But the Pistons' personnel should match up well - it ought to be interesting to watch.

Question of the game

Will Josh Smith be cheered or booed? Bonus question: will Hawks fans groan on his long twos just out of habit?