ATL bound tonight

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (9-21) at Atlanta Hawks (16-9)
  • Date: December 26, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

After losing back-to-back games to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers, the Atlanta Hawks rebounded on Saturday night at home by defeating the Chicago Bulls by 17 points on the strength of a great performance by Al Horford.

The Hawks have performed quite well this season despite jettisoning Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, both of which were important pieces to the team in recent seasons.

Their good play this year has come as a result of the good overall play of both Al Horford and Josh Smith combined with the fit of the complimentary players around them.

ATL has some good dribble penetrators in Jeff Teague and Lou Williams that create offense off the bounce for themselves or their teammates; and in addition the team has some terrific knockdown shooters in Kyle Korver and Anthony Morrow that do a great job of keeping defenses occupied.

And yet, the Hawks are only 14th in offensive efficiency in the NBA despite their complimentary pieces on offense because their execution on this side of the ball leaves much to be desired

They have some good parts that fit together and should be able to take advantage of most defenses, but their attention to detail hurts them on this front.

Their guards set some good screens for their perimeter players but struggle to do the same against big men, seemingly fearing contact. Thus, the Hawks backcourt players get into the lane and position themselves to set picks but instead just kind of get in the way of the opposing big men as opposed to setting solid screens on the interior, which compromises the post position of Atlanta’s interior players.

Another area where the guards struggle is in the pick-and-roll. They do not always wait for their big men to fully station themselves in the screen setting process, often leaving before bigs even get an opportunity to position themselves, which leads to drives into the middle of the lane with condensed space since the passing options are almost non-existent given the proximity of all of the players.

It’s worth noting that Larry Drew’s unit typically remains static on the weak side of the court, which means that defenses need only concentrate on defending the initial action. With that said, Josh Smith and Al Horford are good enough to overcome most of these issues and create high percentage looks for themselves as well as their teammates, but the offensive execution itself is problematic nonetheless.

Defensively however, it’s night and day.

The Hawks own the fourth best defensive efficiency mark in the NBA, and once again that is a product of their pair of interior players.

The defense is geared to shift everything towards Smith and Horford, where they can accomplish a multitude of things to thwart opposing offenses.

Both players have the foot speed and intellect to vary their pick-and-roll coverage regardless of the opponent: hedge and recover, hard trap, switching or waiting for the ball handler beneath the free throw line. In addition, they possess the ability to completely abandon their man for the sake of protecting against the first option in a play and trust their teammates to cover for them until they rotate back to him.

The defensive execution is impressive to watch on most nights as Josh Smith and Al Horford accomplish these tasks seamlessly, but they also contest shots, patrol the paint and rebound their area. Indeed, a lot of what Atlanta does defensively is system based, but their scheme works well because of their bigs, which helps the Hawks limit opponents to 38.9 points in the paint per game (sixth best mark in the NBA) per Team Rankings.

The Detroit Pistons will have their hands full tonight in Atlanta, but finding ways to attack the Hawks on both fronts will be paramount to obtaining a road victory.

Read about the Hawks

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