Things looked quite sketchy for the Atlanta Hawks less than a week ago with regard to playoff positioning, but after an important (and surprising) road win in Indiana on Sunday night, the team returns home with new optimism. The opponent in this match-up is, of course, highlighted by old pal Josh Smith, but the Detroit Pistons have little to play for otherwise, as their 28-49 mark keeps them resting far outside the playoff picture.
With that said, Detroit did rise up and win their last game (115-111 over Boston on Saturday), and the Pistons are still a talented bunch. Josh Smith is an easy target, but he could easily be quite motivated in his old stomping grounds (although he was awful in his first return), and Detroit has a huge frontcourt. Smith joins with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe to present all kinds of match-up issues, and with the size restrictions that the Hawks have at times, it could be crucial for guys like Paul Millsap and Pero Antic to stretch the floor against the shear girth of the Pistons.
On the perimeter, Detroit is void of a single, dominant option, and the Brandon Jennings experiment has gone horribly wrong at times. Still, it will be interesting to see who gets the better of the match-up between Jennings and Jeff Teague, if only because they were often compared the off-season point guard shuffle. Rodney Stuckey has been the best perimeter player for Detroit this season for the most part (contract year!), and he is coming off of a 26-point explosion on Saturday, so Detroit's 6th man is worth keeping an eye on defensively.
Simply put, the Hawks are in a great position, but could really use a victory here to cement things in the playoff race. Atlanta holds a 2-game lead over New York, and with the Knicks on hiatus until Friday, the Hawks could have a 3-game lead (in addition to a tiebreaker advantage) before their chief competitor plays another game. A sweep of Detroit and Boston (who arrives on Wednesday) all but slams the door on things, and getting a win over the Pistons sets the stage for an extremely likely run to the playoffs. The stakes are high, and we'll see how the team responds in the friendly confines of Philips Arena.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, April 8, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: No Local TV; NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM