Well, so much for winning the big one on Thanksgiving night.
After watching the Magic make halftime adjustments (as the best teams and their coaches routinely do), the Hawks found out once again that this is one of the differences between being the best and being, well……”not quite.” What will the team learn from this? What will coach Mike Woodson learn from this? It remains to be seen, but there’s no sense in us fans dwelling on it to very long.
Fortunately, the Hawks did not dwell on that loss too much, either, although you couldn’t tell in the first half of the game in Philadelphia. For a while, things looked a bit bleak, despite steady play from Mike Bibby and Josh Smith. Joe Johnson struggled in ways that were both familiar and unfamiliar. Al Horford had to be wondering if this was his version of Groundhog Day, what with him only getting three shot attempts, while watching some tall guy on the opposing team block or alter nearly every shot near the basket. Marvin didn’t seem to be part of anyone’s offensive plan. But in the end, the Hawks pulled away, showing the Sixers that they were indeed the better team. Mike Bibby taught heralded rookie Jrue Holiday a lesson that probably had Hawks rookie guard Jeff Teague grinning knowingly from the sideline. Jamal Crawford came off the bench to burn the Sixers for 24, and Josh Smith worked them hard on both ends of the floor. And what do you know? Al Horford got the ball more, and finished with a nice 15 points and 8 rebounds. While the Sixers were missing Elton Brand (again), young big man Speights, and the quick scoring Lou Williams, you can never undervalue a win on the road.
Up next is another road game, this one in Detroit.
HAWKS VS. PISTONS
The Detroit Pistons find themselves on a nasty skid, having suffered their seventh loss in a row last night against the L.A. Clippers. Part of that can be attributed to the absence of Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton, and Ben Gordon. Hamilton has been out since late October, and the Pistons either don’t know, or aren’t telling when he will return. Prince was still rehabbing as of this past thursday, but his return is still in doubt as well. Gordon’s ankle sprain is another mystery, as he too sat out the game against the Clippers, and remains a question mark. That doesn’t leave the Pistons with much, other than all the time in the world to play their rookies and other bench guys. Meanwhile, the Hawks have managed to mostly avoid the injury bug, and have their whole bag of tricks to work with. Both teams will have a day today to rest in between now and Sunday’s 1 p.m. contest.
What you might remember
Last season, Mike Bibby blitzed the Pistons for 27 points enroute to a home win on December 21st. On February 11th, it was Joe Johnson and Flip Murray who did the bulk of the damage in win on Detroit’s home floor. March 7th proved that the third time is not always the charm, as a balanced effort (led by Josh Smith’s 19 points) undid the Pistons yet again, in Atlanta. And just think, that was when they had Rasheed Wallace, a healthy Rip Hamilton, and Antonio McDyess. Now the Pistons have a different coach (again) and a very different roster.
These Guys Might be Trouble
Here are the my picks for game maker/breaker, not in any particular order.
Ben Gordon would be the favorite here, but he may not be playing in this game, due to that ankle sprain. So, I’m going to have to go with Charlie Villanueva to get things started. Villanueva is somewhat of an enigma, and is anything but consistent. However, he is another matchup problem due to the combination of size (6′11″) and shooting range/ability. Villanueva isn’t a star like Nowitzki, or as steady as the nearly all-star level Lamarcus Aldridge. But he IS dangerous, no matter how you view him. Reaching the 20-point barrier is not a problem, and if he gets hot from beyond the arc, it will be a long night for whoever is supposed to be guaring him.
Next is Will Bynum. The third year guard out of Georgia Tech has struggled with his shot the last two games, but he’s shooting a fairly serviceable 44% from the field. The thing about Bynum is that he’s tough, relentless, and is not at all shy about getting to the basket. He’s also not a bad ball-handler and distributor, collecting 4.4 assists to go against 2.3 turnovers per game.
Finally, there’s Rodney Stuckey, the guy whom Pistons GM Joe Dumars essentially paved the way for, by trading off Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets. That trade still looks rather rough to many who care to play armchair GM (or to those who get paid to have an opinion), but Stuckey seems to be getting closer to the player the Pistons want. While his shooting percentage is ugly (39%), Stuckey is averaging over 17 points per game, and has shown himself to be more than a one trick pony, also averaging 4.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Like Bynum, Stuckey likes to take it into the paint, where he can convert and also make trips to the charity stripe. A combo guard with quick hands and decent size, Stuckey also likes to get his hands on loose balls, sloppy passes, and unprotected dribbles on the defensive end. He’s another player that if allowed to go unchecked, can give any team a headache.
You Pick the Counter-Punch
Do the Hawks need anybody in particular to step their game up against the Pistons? Can they do the bulk of their damage from the backcourt, as they did last season, or will the frontcourt carry the day? Atlanta would probably be best served coming out of the gate strong, rather than let the win-hungry Pistons have a chance at taking a first half lead on their own home floor. What is the best way to accomplish that?
By the way, guys and gals. Everything is up for grabs, comment, etc, as always. Think somebody not mentioned above will be trouble for the Hawks? Say so! Notice a difference between other teams’ crowds and our home crowds? Let us hear it! On to Motor City, looking for another road win…