NBA Friday Night Action: Atlanta Hawks at Detroit Pistons: Odds, Picks

Al Horford has a reason to be excited again, and the Hawks are back on the scene.
Al Horford has a reason to be excited again, and the Hawks are back on the scene.

Atlanta Hawks vs. Detroit Pistons
Time: 7:35 PM ET
TV: NBA League Pass
Spread: ATL -3.5
Total: 203

Odds courtesy of Bovada

This unlikely matchup of the two hottest basketball teams in the Association should not go ignored by bettors nor fans. The Atlanta Hawks have won six straight and the Detroit Pistons have reeled off seven straight since cutting ties with team disrupting Josh Smith.

NBA oddsmakers are setting the line 3.5 points in favor of the visiting Hawks. Detroit is just 4-13 at home this season, while only two games under .500 on the road.

The Pistons still have a hole to dig itself out of for playoff contention.

Detroit trails the No. 8 Miami Heat by 2.5 games and still has Boston, Charlotte and Indiana ahead of it in the standings. But Stan Van Gundy brings a defensive culture that improves teams.

When asked the similarities between Dwight Howard and Andre Drummond, Van Gundy told reporters, “They are both huge, extremely talented, and I’m lucky to have coached them both.”

Van Gundy implies luck has anything to do with his effect on NBA big men. SVG knows how to anchor a defense around a dominant center. His model defensively with this Pistons team is sure to follow suit with what he did in his time as the coach of the Orlando Magic.

Essentially, the perimeter will be closed off with half-court traps and pressure. This is done with Brandon Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell Pope and Jodie Meeks working on opposing guards.

Once filtered to the baseline, Drummond simply changes or blocks the shot. The 6’11” former UConn Husky averages 1.8 blocks a game in just 30 minutes of play a night. Drummond also snags five offensive rebounds a game, averaging 13.3 rebounds per contest total. He’s impossible for smaller centers to keep off the boards, and save the likes of DeAndre Jordan and possibly Howard himself, Drummond will not be out-leaped on the glass.

The Hawks have perimeter options, however. The Pistons defense will be stretched on the wings by the hot shooting of Kyle Korver. The Hawks are the NBA’s 8th highest scoring offense, and Korver averages 12.8 points per game in 33 minutes of play a night.

But the real story may be how well Paul Millsap has played since signing as a free agent.

Millsap showed plenty of promise in Utah, but he’s adjusted to playing in the Eastern Conference quite well. The undersized 4-man is posting 17 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, while also dishing out over three assists per game. He’s always been a playmaker defensively, and this season he is averaging 2.7 blocks/steals per game. Pairing him with Al Horford, an All-Star with a great short-range jumper, makes the Hawks very difficult to guard in the half court.

In transition, the Hawks have Jeff Teague (17.7 points per game, team-leading) to get out and run. DeMarre Carroll hits 37.8 percent of his threes, bested only by Mike Scott (40 percent on 2.4 attempts per game) and Korver (an extra-worldly 51 percent from three).

Teague and Carroll connect well on transition threes, given Carroll’s propensity for finding his sweet spots. His 4.1 threes attempted per game rank only behind Korver’s 5.8 attempts. As a team, Atlanta shoots 37.6 percent from three-point range and jacks up 24.7 per game. That kind of play is what wins playoff series, and teams are very much dreading a matchup against a team with Atlanta’s discipline and versatility.

This game should be a battle between an evolving, potentially dangerous Detroit defense, and an efficient, game-winning type of offense in the Hawks’ attack. The result will likely be a Hawks win, but the 3.5 point spread indicates the type of play the Pistons have shown.

Once a laughing stock in the Eastern Conference, the Motor City has a reason to be excited about Pistons basketball again. And it’s been a long time since it has been, Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton are retired. Detroit needs SVG to return this team to its place as an Eastern Conference juggernaut. Even so, it is likely the Hawks manage to cover the 3.5 point spread, winning this one for its seventh consecutive victory while snapping the Pistons run.

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