Short-handed or not, Lou Williams is staying in the Hawks’ starting lineup.
Coach Larry Drew, out of necessity, used Williams as the starting shooting guard on Dec. 22 against the Bulls. The Hawks are 5-1 since the move.
At the time, Drew said he would have used Devin Harris in the starting spot. However, the guard was out with a sore left foot – an issue that will cost him a ninth straight game Friday at the Pistons. The change has also meant the DeShawn Stevenson, often a starter at small forward with Kyle Korver at shooting guard, has remained a reserve.
Drew knows a good thing and he’s sticking with it.
“A couple of games I’ve thought about going back to a bigger lineup but sometimes, as I’ve said in the past, you’ve got to roll the dice a little bit – whether you adjust to the opposition or you force the opposition to adjust to you,” Drew said. “Clearly, our last few games if there is an adjustment to be made it’s going to be on their end. I’m going to stay with what’s been working for us. He’s been good in our lineup and I’m going to keep it that way.”
It was on Dec. 26, after the Hawks enjoyed a Christmas break, a 22-point lead against the Pistons was blow at Philips Arena. The Hawks survived in double overtime despite the play of Will Bynum, from Georgia Tech. The victory was part of the five wins in six games with Williams in the starting lineup.
Williams, listed at 6-foot-1, will again draw the defensive assignment of the Pistons’ 6-8 Kyle Singler. Singler was held scoreless in 14 minutes before making way for Bynum and his 31 points off the bench in the Pistons’ comeback.
Williams has averaged 14.4 points, 6.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds as a starter after going 173 career games with stepping on the floor with the first unit.
“It’s been a lot easier,” point guard Jeff Teague said. “He can score the basketball. At that 2-guard position you need a scorer. He takes a lot of pressure off all of us with his ability to score points.”
The Hawks will also be without guard Anthony Morrow (right hip strain) and center Johan Petro (stomach illness) against the Pistons. Neither player, along with Harris, traveled to Detroit Thursday. Morrow will miss his fourth straight game with his injury.
Center Al Horford (right hip contusion) did not practice Thursday but said he fully expects to play against the Pistons.
The Pistons have won three straight since the loss to the Hawks, including a victory over the Heat.
The Hawks spent Thursday’s practice reviewing schemes and assignments that were at issue in the Pistons’ big comeback.
“Their matchups are always tough for us because they are big and they are physical,” Drew said. “… It seems like they are playing with a new sense of pride. They are a team that can hurt you in a number of ways, with their size, with their speed, particularly their guards. (6-5 guard Rodney) Stuckey has always been a tough matchup for us because he has size and he’s strong and we don’t have a clear matchup against him. We try to combat that in different ways just to keep his numbers down.”
The Hawks return home Saturday to host the Celtics. On the season, the Hawks are an NBA-best 7-1 in the second game of back-to-backs.
- Chris Vivlamore
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