The Atlanta Hawks return to Philips Arena on Saturday to face the Detroit Pistons as the exhibition season enters its final stage. Atlanta hosts Charlotte on Monday and the wraps up the exhibition season in San Antonio on Wednesday. Atlanta will open the 2014-15 regular season against the Toronto Raptors on October 29.
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Atlanta has gone 2-2 thus far in the preseason and just completed a 1-2 road trip with an 85-84 loss to the Chicago Bulls. For Mike Budenholzer and his coaching staff, preseason wins and losses mean little and he has used the opportunity to get his young players some meaningful minutes against other team's frontline starters.
"We have things that we are looking for going into each of the preseason games," coach Mike Budenholzer said. "There is an idea of how we want to play our guys and rotate them. It really has very, very little to do with winning or losing the game. I tell guys at some point they are done for the night. We stick to the plan and learn from things we don't do great."
By most accounts, the preseason has gone well for the Hawks. Al Horford, Kent Bazemore and Pero Antic returned to action during the road trip and are working their way back to full strength. They have escaped so far without any other injuries and young players like Mike Muscala, Dennis Schröder and John Jenkins have played well.
Atlanta rested Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague in Thursday's game and we likely won't find out what their plans for Saturday are until shortly before tipoff.
Detroit has gone 3-2 during the preseason under new coach Stan Van Gundy but suffered a 99-87 loss to the Orlando Magic on Saturday. Following the game, Van Gundy questioned his team's effort in the loss saying they only played well for about an 18 minute stretch.
"We weren't in position to win that game from the minute it started," he said. "We didn't put anything into the game for the first 18 minutes, then we played well for 18 minutes and that was it. You're not going to win games playing a quarter and a half out of four on an evening."
Saturday's game also marks another return of former Hawks forward Josh Smith to Philips Arena. Van Gundy and the Pistons have spent the preseason looking for the right starting combination for their front court that also features Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. All three started on Saturday with Smith at small forward and the results weren't good. Smith finished with three points on 1-7 shooting to go along with one rebound in just under 25 minutes. Smith did lead the team with seven assists. Monroe led the Pistons with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, October 18, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM, NBA League Pass Audio