UPDATE: Hawks power forward Paul Millsap has been declared active for tonight’s game and guard Lou Williams will play, as expected.
Coach Bud says Paul Millsap will play tonight. Lou is also available off the bench.
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) November 20, 2013
Date: November 20, 2013
Tip-Off Time: 7:30 PM ET
TV Channel: SportSouth (Local in Atlanta), NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 FM (Atlanta Flagship), Atlanta Hawks Radio Network Affiliates
Live Stream: League Pass Broadband
Josh Smith is back in Atlanta.
We’ll come back to the “overall” impact of that return, but the task at hand for the Hawks is an attempt to grab a bounce-back victory after a listless defeat in Miami on Tuesday night. In general, back-to-backs that include a road game are very difficult in this league, and this is no different, so the guard should be up for anyone thinking that this is a walk-over spot for Atlanta.
The Pistons enter this match-up with the 29th-ranked defense in the league, and that is where we have to begin. On paper, a team that features both Smith and big man Andre Drummond shouldn’t be anywhere near the bottom of the league in defense (or allowing 106.2 points per 100 possessions), but the parts don’t seem to be fitting well for Maurice Cheeks and company on that end. The Atlanta offense has also been lights-out this season (last night not withstanding) and most people consider it to be, at minimum, a top-10 offense in the league, which makes for danger if you’re a Pistons supporter.
With all of that said, Detroit poses an interesting match-up issue for the Hawks. The Pistons are huge up front when they play their “starters”, as Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith would be playing together. That lineup hasn’t performed particularly well for Detroit, but given the lack of size for Atlanta (in general), it could pose some issues on the glass.
Must-see TV will ensue if the Pistons go smaller against an Ayon-Horford (or Antic-Horford, etc.) frontcourt, as that would pair Al Horford and Josh Smith against each other. After years of bickering in the media over who was the better player (Al won), that would be an awesome sight.
On the perimeter, Detroit isn’t exactly frightening. Brandon Jennings was brought in from Milwaukee, but he’s struggled a bit this year, shooting just over 38% from the field. The low field goal percentage isn’t out of the ordinary for Jennings, but a face-off with Jeff Teague (who should be fired up after an “off” night on Tuesday) could be key in deciding the winner of this one.
The Pistons are also void of wing depth, and their best player at that position (in my view) is another player returning “home” in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope was a lottery pick out of Georgia last season, but he’s only averaging 19.5 minutes per game, as Cheeks has elected to go with Chauncey Billups (yuck), Rodney Stuckey (good luck), and Kyle Singler in his stead. For once, the wing is a defined advantage for the Hawks in this game, as Josh Smith doubles as the best “wing” on the team despite his hilarious 31.6% 3-point shooting on nearly 6 attempts per game (I’m sorry; I couldn’t contain myself).
It will also be highly interesting to see what type of rotations are utilized by Mike Budenholzer in this game. Lou Williams is presumably available after sitting out the Miami game, and with Paul Millsap’s status up in the air (as of this post), we could see a lot of Gustavo Ayon, Mike Scott, and Pero Antic, with some Elton Brand mixed in as a defensive ace against this bigger Pistons front-line. Also, Shelvin Mack continues to see extended time behind Jeff Teague, and it’ll be worth watching to see if Williams gets any time as a pure point guard in this game.
As always, we take somewhat of a cue from Las Vegas, and those pundits have placed the Hawks as a 5-point favorite in the game on Wednesday night. This is a bit of a hat-tip to the Hawks as the better team (being that the margin is more than 3-3.5 points), but it’s also a pretty narrow line when considering how ugly Detroit’s 4-6 start has been at times. With a gun to my head, I’d probably take the Hawks, but this is probably a “stay away” spot for anyone that is overly interested in point spreads.
In conclusion, long-time readers of this space (or my work in general) will probably know that I’m not the biggest fan of Josh as a player, and that is probably the kindest way to put it. His jump-shooting ways caused me to write thousands upon thousands of words (literally) about his decision-making, and he generally drove me insane for the duration of his career as a member of the Hawks.
However, Smith’s presence in Atlanta was a certainly a net positive when you consider his draft position (17th overall) and overall contribution to the game (defense, rebounding, etc.), and he is also a life-long resident of Atlanta (McEachern High School before going to Oak Hill). With that, the folks at Peachtree Hoops pointed out that Smith unequivocally deserves a standing ovation upon his return to Philips Arena, and I wholeheartedly agree. Once that time passes, feel free (as I would) to act accordingly any time he primes himself for a long jumpshot, and freely realize that he is no longer “our” problem.
At any rate, this is going to be a fun basketball game, and it is almost certain to be a spectacle from the moment Josh Smith hits the floor.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the night, and a full recap to follow.