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Hawks vs. Pistons preview: Millsap, Hawks are never easy to defend

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Detroit begins a three-game home stand, and quite frankly, they need ‘em all.

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

With their 102-97 win over the Lakers, the Pistons not only ended their 11-game losing streak at the Staples Center, but also kept within reasonable striking distance of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, I could also say:

The Pistons - losers of three straight - mustered enough energy to beat the lowly Los Angeles Lakers 102-97. Even with the win, the Pistons remain on the outside looking in for postseason play in the Eastern Conference.

Which one better suits this team’s current state?

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Game Vitals

When: January 18th at 8 p.m. EST

Where: Palace of Auburn Hills; Auburn Hills, MI

Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

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Analysis

The Pistons are 1-1 against the Hawks this year, with both games being played in Atlanta. In their last meeting on December 30th, Kyle Korver chipped in 22 points, but he’s got a new address in Cleveland. The Korver trade seemed to indicate a franchise reboot in Atlanta, but as it turns out, the Hawks started playing their best ball of the season after the trade. As winners of nine of their past 10 games and at 24-17, Atlanta is firmly in the thick of playoff seed jostling.

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Atlanta relies on ball movement, people movement and misdirection to create defensive confusion. Paul Millsap is the Hawks most talented player, and clearly an important cog to their offensive scheme. But in true “Spurs of the East” fashion, Atlanta doesn’t depend on simple isolation to unlock his bucket-getting ability.

Below, the 1-5 pick and roll usually indicates a two-man game between the point guard and center. Don’t buy into it. The real action is on the weak side as Millsap runs off a Korver and Tim Hardaway Jr screen for a wide open hoop.

Once again, don’t be fooled. The play below was never designed for Schröder to do anything but reverse the ball to Millsap and create the mismatch:

It worked. Dwight Howard is hunting Millsap’s man (Leuer) the entire time, leaving Drummond on Millsap and Leuer on a rolling Howard.

Damn you and your creativity, Coach Bud.

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Here, all five Hawks begin above the three point line. All five.

If all five are above the three point line, where is the only place to attack? That’s right, the rim. While Dwight Howard starts beyond the arc, don’t lose track of him as he’s not staying there - his three point stroke ain’t what it used to be.

You know who else doesn’t stay in one place? Anyone in a Hawk uniform. It’s imperative not to get caught ball watching:

Guys on the floor, guys on the bench, coaching staff, ball boys - you must account for their whereabouts at all times.

Damn you and your movement.

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Projected Lineups

Atlanta

Dennis Schröder, Tim Hardaway Jr, Dwight Howard, Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore

Detroit

Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Andre Drummond, Marcus Morris, Jon Leuer (set to return after missing the last four games)

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Prediction

I sound like a broken record, but from here on out, all these games are important - especially taking care of business at home.

Andre usually holds his own against similar skill sets - the Hassan Whitesides, DeAndre Jordans and Dwight Howards of the world - as he’s allowed to stay in his comfort zone instead of closing out on stretch bigs.

Hawks 101, Pistons 109

Damn me and my homer predictions.