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Pistons vs. Hawks preview

It's make or break time for the Pistons. Playoffs? Let's go.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Situation

All that matters now is the Playoffs.

Winners of five straight after holding off the Hornets on Thursday, the Pistons host the Hawks in yet another must-win game at The Palace.

Tied with Indiana for the eight seed and two games up on Chicago and the nine seed, the Pistons control their Playoff destiny. Nine games remain. Play well and win, and the Pistons get in. Play poorly and lose, and it's out of their hands.

Little more needs to be said. The Playoffs are almost here. Let's get it. Let's go.

Last Time We Met

March 16, 2015. Hawks 118, Pistons 114.

No game is ever won or lost by one player or one position, but the single-biggest weakness was defense at the point guard position. Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder combined for forty points, sixteen assists, and three steals. Reggie Jackson and Steve Blake, while solid offensively, had absolutely no answers on defense.

And this wasn't an isolated occurrence. Teague and Schroder have been a nightmare for the Pistons in each of their three previous matches this season.

Al Horford was the next biggest problem. His newly-added three-point shot caused all sorts of problems for Andre Drummond - and to be fair, for plenty of NBA big men this season - and it will be matchup to watch on Saturday as well.

But really, the Pistons played the Hawks tough earlier this month. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was brilliant, Tobias Harris was solid as usual, and Drummond, in spite of defensive struggles, was a handful for Atlanta with eighteen and eighteen of his own.

Keys to the Game

Defense at point guard: If Reggie Jackson is going to emerge as the leader of this team, he has to be better on defense. He has all the tools, and he's been really good at times. Tonight needs to be one of those nights. While surprisingly solid on defense this season, the Pistons' team defense just isn't good enough everywhere else to compensate for consistent breakdowns on the perimeter. To be fair, most NBA teams aren't. It starts with Jackson, and it's time to step up.

Three-point shooting: In their one win over the Atlanta Hawks back on opening night, the Pistons shot 41% from deep. In their two losses? 33% and 32% respectively. When the Pistons shoot well from behind the long line, they are scary and have proven they can compete with anyone in the NBA.

Home Court Advantage: Speaking of defense and three-point shooting, the Pistons have been better at both at The Palace on the season, which could mean the difference between a win and a loss on Saturday. Defensively, the Pistons are two and a half points better per one hundred possessions at home and three percentage points better from behind the arc.

And to belabor the point just a little bit further, the Pistons have shot 38.5% from deep in wins and 29.4% in losses.

Community Question

What's the magic number? How many wins will the Pistons need to make the Playoffs?