It's hard to avoid narrowing in on what the team you're covering did wrong to lose a game as opposed to paying worthy attention to what the other team did to win it. It's a Pistons blog, so the Pistons lost.
But the Hawks also won.
Sean actually did a great job giving the Hawks plenty of credit in his recap, but far too often I'm guilty of ignoring the other team's contributions to the result of a Pistons game. So, in the spirit of being fair, I am going to elaborate on just how good the Hawks are and how they managed to beat the Pistons on Monday.
As you've probably heard, the Hawks have won 13 straight games now and are 27-2 (.931) over their last 29 games. Their franchise record for consecutive wins is 14 set in 1993 when Lenny Wilkins led the club to a franchise best 57 wins, records they're on pace to break. I talked to young Hawks writers before the game and I got the feeling that their fans are still a bit shell shocked by the streak and how great this team is. Imagine how everybody else feels.
The Hawks only beat the Pistons by three in Detroit two weeks ago and the 11-point win on Monday was closer than the score suggested, but the Hawks' wins during their 13-game streak haven't been particularly close. Their margin of victory during their win streak has been 11.7 points, and they've held double-digit leads in every single game. Maybe streaks like this are more common than I realize, but that feels like a remarkable statistic.
In the Monday matinee, the Hawks' ninth guy with two first names, Mike Scott, tied for a game high 20 points. The Pistons did a fine job on Jeff Teague and minimizing damage from Player of the Week Al Horford, and Kyle Korver, but reminiscent of the Goin' To Work Pistons, the Hawks distributed the ball evenly throughout its team and put the clamps down on defense.
You might remember the 50-win Pistons before they really started Goin' To Work weren't very good at offensive rebounds. They ranked near the bottom of the league in 2001-2003. This Hawks team is similar (29) and on Monday they didn't even have a single offensive rebound until the third quarter.
Head coach Mike Budenholzer acknowledged the discrepancy in offensive rebounding after the game and was accepting of it because he says the team really prioritizes getting back on defense. At one point during the second quarter I noticed the Hawks rarely followed any of their own shots, as you're taught to do in Basketball 101. They had so much faith in their shots and put so much emphasis on getting back on defense that it was almost a natural immediate reaction for them to turn around and run back on defense as soon as someone pulled. They don't want 61 to 42 rebounding disadvantages every night, but they also won't always be playing Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.
And when they get back on defense, oh what a defense it is. They trap when they need to (KCP and Monroe were victims of this throughout the game); they play pick and rolls almost to perfection; and they successfully close out on three-point shooters.
The Pistons attempted 35 threes, tied for the second most in franchise history, and they only hit nine. The Hawks are no strangers to teams putting up a lot of threes, as they see more attempts per game than any other team this season, and yet they're sixth best in the league at defending them.
Take this from Keith Langlois' recap, which is from what Van Gundy said before the game:
Van Gundy said you become a good defense when you can defend the paint - "We're not quite there yet," he said - and a great defense when you can do that and also close out effectively on 3-point shooters. Atlanta, he said, does both exceptionally well.
I heard SVG say this before the game, but I was keyed in on the Pistons winning, so of course I didn't let it register. Then, when I was seeing it all unfold during the game, I couldn't help but just nod my head and think, Oh, so that's what he was talking about.
After the game, SVG continued to sing the Hawks praise, giving their defense a lot of credit, stating that it was frustrating on his part because he couldn't find anything for the Pistons to run to get them consistent good looks.
Everybody else is beginning to take notice and believe, too. The Hawks are No. 1 in several power rankings for a reason and it's not because they didn't re-sign Josh Smith two summers ago. (Although it didn't hurt!)
While I'm disappointed that the Pistons lost to the Hawks again, I'm encouraged that it was close for three and a half quarters. As Sean mentioned in the recap, the Hawks are championship caliber. Hopefully the Pistons can learn from this game and can build to one day get to the Hawks' current level of top-shelf basketball.
You know, form something.
Now your slobbering.