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Pistons vs Hawks preview: Hawks slumping, Pistons off to Atlanta to keep it that way

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Atlanta returns home after a five game road trip to welcome the Pistons.

NBA: Preseason-Detroit Pistons at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Sitting at 10-10, the Detroit Pistons are probably where they should be considering the circumstances and, if anything, are trending upwards. After assimilating off season signing Dwight Howard quickly, the Atlanta Hawks jumped out to a 10-5 start but have since lost four in a row.

The Hawks lost Al Horford and Jeff Teague in the summer of ‘16 and have leaned on not only Howard but newly appointed starting point guard Dennis Schroder to pick up the slack.

Sitting directly in the Hawks’ back pocket are old faithful Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver; both play key roles in Atlanta’s offense and that’s where we’ll start.

Game Vitals

When: December 2 at 8:00pm EST

Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

Analysis

Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer grew up in the San Antonio franchise starting as a Video Coordinator in the mid-nineties, he then took reign in Atlanta at the start of the 2013-14 season. Using a variety of Spur-like tendencies, the Hawks were dubbed the "Spurs of the East".

A large part of San Antonio’s formula was Gregg Popovich’s ability to put his players in a position to succeed. Coach Bud has followed suit.

Being able to space the floor in today’s game is irreplaceable. Most teams have a few shooters that they can throw out there to keep teams honest. Most teams don’t have Kyle Korver, though.

Spacing and timing make the play work below:

It’s a simple two-man pick and roll that requires a third weakside defender to negate. In this case, Luol Deng can’t bump the rolling Howard or he risks leaving Korver for a wide open three point attempt (lets face it, a wide open three point make). As soon as Howard initiates the screen, Korver begins his slide to give the ball handling Kent Bazemore that exact option.

Next - and this is where it gets fun - Korver creates a scoring opportunity for his buddy Paul Millsap, again without touching the ball.

For the thousands in attendance and the millions watching worldwide, the beginning of this play has you to believe that Millsap will be setting a top of the key screen for Korver. Not so fast my friends:

The misdirection caused the Knicks to switch Justin Holiday onto Millsap giving the Hawks’ forward a distinct strength, power, skill and overall basketball mismatch.

Ball movement - another Spurs’ staple - puts everyone playing defense on their heels.

Courtney Lee is glued to Korver until he must rotate east-to-west to get a hand in Millsap’s face. Too late. Korver averages under 10 points a game but can be a large part of the offense.

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This action will happen - especially with Schroder - I put the mophatt1 guarantee stamp on it.

Early in a possession (semi-transition context) Schroder will look to push the ball up the floor along the sideline. The goal is to make a pass to the wing and then for Schroder to take an immediate hand-off from the wing and attack the basket. This is part of their Pistol series and most teams run it, most notably the Hawks, Spurs, and Trailblazers. The Jeff Teague led Hawks ran this ad nauseam .

If, however, the wing pass is unavailable, Schroder will use dribble entry and read/react. Don’t forget about the trailing big and if he’s a shooting trailing big, that’s double trouble.

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Steve Holman is kind of like our George Blaha only on the radio side, he’s been calling Hawks’ games for 30 years.

He’s a tad feistier than George, which can be fun.

After the Golden State Warriors recently put away the Hawks late in their game to secure a win, Draymond Green started to celebrate. Holman responded:

That has nothing to do with the game but that’s funny.

Holman’s all right in my book.

Projected Lineup

Detroit

Ish Smith, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andre Drummond, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris

Atlanta

Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Dwight Howard, Mike Muscala, Paul Millsap

Millsap (hip) missed their last game in Phoenix, stay tuned to the GameThread for his availability.

Prediction

The Hawks return home spending seven of their last eight games on the road in which they went 1-7 in that time frame. Detroit should be pseudo fresh and rather lively after their biggest win of the year in Boston.

Atlanta is 0-6 on the year if - at any point during the game - they’ve trailed by double digits.

Dwight Sr. and Dwight Jr. should be fun battle and any interaction between Dwight and SVG would be pure entertainment.

I like how the Pistons are playing and if you listen closely....

Pistons 105, Hawks 98