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Pistons vs Hawks preview: Atlanta focuses on defense to stop skid

The Atlanta Hawks have been dreadful defensively in their last two games, and fixing that is the focus as the team hosts the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It is always entertaining when Josh Smith and the Detroit Pistons invade Philips Arena. However, the focus is (or rather, should be) more on the Atlanta Hawks in this one, as the team aims to improve its woeful defense from the recent past while looking to halt a two-game losing streak.

Atlanta ran into a buzzsaw during Saturday night's loss on a back-to-back in Cleveland, but the defense was atrocious on Tuesday in an explicable loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at home, and that is the backdrop here. The Hawks have allowed 241 total points in the last eight quarters, and in addition to that, the Cavs (130.0 points per 100) and Lakers (120.4 points per 100) carved things up on that end of the floor. Fortunately, the visiting Pistons are far less of a threat, and it could be time to "get healthy" on defense.

DeMarre Carroll is expected to play on Friday, which will undoubtedly aid in improving the defense, but Detroit may have a small part as well. The Pistons are scoring only 97.5 points per 100 possessions on the season, and that places them solidly in the bottom five across the league offensively. From a match-up perspective, Detroit can present some concern given their size based around Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and the aforementioned Smith, but they do not possess a great deal of outside shooting, and that is a relief after the long-distance barrages in the last pair of games.

It will undoubtedly be interesting to see how Mike Budenholzer handles the rotation against a team like Detroit, but it will be equally as important to evaluate who wins the point guard match-up between Jeff Teague and Brandon Jennings. The Pistons are 3-9 for a reason, but that reason has not been Jennings, who has actually played quite well to the tune of 16.6 points and 6.1 assists per game while posting a 23.0 PER. Teague is fully capable of out-playing Jennings in this spot, but it will be fun to revisit the summer of 2013 when the debate raged between the two players.

Detroit is not playing well right now, but in that vein, we said the same about the Lakers on Tuesday evening. This is a spot where the Hawks could very much use a home win, but if the defensive issues are not solved (perhaps we will have an Elton Brand sighting?), it could be another long night at Philips Arena. Still, the Hawks are the better team here, and if they play well, everything should be just fine.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Friday, November 21, 7:30 p.m. ET

Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

TV: SportSouth

Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM