Ten observations from Pistons 105, Hawks 91 . . .
1. The Pistons came to Atlanta highly motivated to end their seven-game losing streak, with coach Stan Van Gundy tweaking his rotation and offensive strategies. The result for Detroit, after a slow start, was a total domination of the Hawks. The Pistons made the Hawks look slow while moving with purpose offensively and passing crisply. They also disrupted Atlanta’s offensive rhythm with defensive pressure. The Pistons led by as many as 24 points after halftime They are just too good for the Hawks when playing this well.
2. The Hawks led 31-10 after a quarter then were buried during the second when the Pistons outscored them 29-15. The Hawks got next to nothing from their reserves during the period: five players combined for two points and two rebounds in from five players in 20 minutes. Or, more precisely, John Collins had two points and two rebounds in the second period and the other four reserves had no points, rebounds or assists.
“We didn’t play well for the last three or four minutes of the first quarter and from that point on we were kind of playing from behind,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “They executed well. They defended well. They did a lot of (good) things. A little bit frustrating for us that we started out well and it didn’t stay that way.”
3. Collins returned after an six-game absence because of a shoulder injury. His minutes were restricted (20) but, as usual, Collins made the most of them with productive and efficient busts of play: 15 points on 10 shots, seven rebounds.
Collins: “It felt great to be back on the court (and) test my body out, see if I’m feeling back to 100 percent. I felt like I was. . . . (The shoulder) is probably going to be a little sore (tomorrow) from banging and hitting for the first time in a couple weeks.”
Collins appeared to have the usual spring in his jump, as he showed when did this to Luke Kennard:
4. Collins faced the prospect of tangling with Pistons center Andre Drummond, who pushed him around during the first meeting in Detroit. Collins pregame: “Big body. Strong. Likes to bang around. It will be a real good test to see how my shoulder is doing. . . . It’s got to be a point of emphasis to keep him off the glass and limit his ability to control the game.” Drummond not only dominated the glass again (19 rebounds) but also recorded a career-high nine assists, including four in the decisive second quarter. (Collins wasn’t matched up with him much, though).
Collins postgame: “The system he’s in and the way he’s playing, it’s been pretty incredible. . . . He’s been on a tear. He’s playing really well right now. Can’t say much more than that.”
5. When the Hawks played the Pistons last month, most of coach Mike Budenholzer’s pregame comments focused on the threat of Detroit forward Tobias Harris. It was the same in the rematch: “Tobias Harris has been a focal point, probably for most of the league (with) the way he is shooting the ball from the three-point line. He’s a unique, diverse player.” Harris promptly made his first four shots on the way to 11 first-half points and finished with 19 on 11 shots.
6. Ersan Ilyasova looked bad in the four games before he was shut down with a knee injury. Since returning to the lineup he’s looking more like the effective shooter and solid rotation player he’s been for most of his career. Ilyasova was 10-for-14 shooting tonight, including makes on five of his first six shots, and is 29-for-45 over his past four games. Unfortunately for the Hawks no one else did much offensively against the Pistons when the game was competitive.
7. Ilyasova’s shooting helped the Hawks ran out to a an 18-11 lead. Dennis Schroder also was a big part of the good start with three assists on Atlanta’s first five field goals. But Schroder (nine points on seven shots, 10 assists) wasn’t as effective after the first quarter with Avery Bradley hounding him. Bradley also aggressively turned the corner on pick-and-rolls on the way to 18 points on 15 shots.
8. Once the Hawks reserves came in for their first run, the Pistons cranked up their ball pressure. The Hawks didn’t handle it well. DeAndre’ Bembry dribbled wildly into the teeth of the defense out of control and turned it over twice (though, to his credit, he didn’t let his problems on offense affect his defense).
Budenholzer: “You have to give their defense credit. I thought we were just a little bit sloppy in that first quarter. When you have a team that’s probably picking up their pressure and you are sloppy, that’s a bad combination.”
9. Miles Plumlee had a bad night. His screens weren’t very good during that first-half stretch that buried the Hawks. Plumlee had just three rebounds in 13 minutes (one with Drummond on the floor), missed two free-throw attempts and several times turned down open shots around the basket and passed to surprised teammates.
10. The Hawks created lots of early clean catch-and-shoot looks for Kent Bazemore behind the three-point line but he missed three of his first four. Bazemore aggressively challenged shots anywhere near him (and sometimes away from him) while recording three blocked shots.
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