Hawks vs. Pistons Live Notebook

Ben Ladner

Pregame

The already shorthanded Hawks will be even thinner Friday without Cam Reddish, who sprained his left wrist on Wednesday when he landed on it falling to the floor. Reddish had been starting in place of Kevin Huerter, who will miss his fifth consecutive game with a sprained left shoulder. 

Lloyd Pierce announced pregame that DeAndre' Bembry will start against the Pistons with Trae Young, De'Andre Hunter, Jabari Parker, and Damian Jones. 

Pierce strongly prefers bringing Bembry off the bench, but doesn't have many alternatives at this point. What was once a relatively deep wing rotation is down to just Hunter, Bembry, Vince Carter, Allen Crabbe, and Evan Turner -- the latter two of whom are on 25- and 20-minute restrictions, respectively. 

Crabbe may push the upper bound of that limit tonight, being one of the few reliable shooters in Atlanta's rotation. It's hard to start him, however, without running him over 25 minutes, while Bembry is fully capable of playing as many minutes as Pierce requires. 

Atlanta has struggled mightily at the start of games this season, and while Bembry's energy is valuable off the bench, it could help jolt the Hawks early and prevent another slow start. "I think I'll definitely help the first unit with getting our blood flowing and stuff like that," Bembry told Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

The Pistons, meanwhile, will start Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, Blake Griffin, and Andre Drummond. Griffin is playing in just his fourth game of the season, but is coming off an All-NBA-caliber season a year ago and is the fulcrum of Detroit's offense. 

Young gave Brown fits the first time the two teams matched up. Galloway and Kennard are slightly undersized on the wing -- we'll see if Atlanta tries to play through Hunter in the post as a counterbalance to Young's pick-and-roll orchestration. 

First Quarter

Detroit has obviously had a lot of empty possessions in the first quarter, but many of them look completely aimless. The offense either moves too slowly and wastes clock or too quickly, settling for poor shots. The Hawks have been active on the glass and with their hands, creating some easy buckets going the other way. 

The Hawks haven't generated very good shots since Jabari Parker went to the bench with two fouls. The ball isn't moving, and a couple of quick, deep 3s had Lloyd Pierce visibly frustrated. Atlanta's dry spell as allowed Detroit to jump in front, 19-17, after a 14-4 start by the Hawks. 

Atlanta's ball movement has been markedly better with DeAndre' Bembry on the floor. Detroit's 20-0 run coincided with Bembry going to the bench, and the Hawks struggled to create clean looks, settling instead for deep, hurried 3s and ill-advised turnovers. Trae Young is pretty clearly the team's best passer, but Bembry may be its best ball-mover. 

Detroit leads 33-23 after one. 

Second Quarter

Chandler Parsons starts the quarter at power forward. The Hawks are using him and Len quite a bit in double-high ball screens for Young, out of which the Hawks have gotten good looks against the Pistons' traps. 

De'Andre Hunter continues to provide solid production as a scorer and defender on the wing; he's hit a 3 and converted an and-one early in the second. One thing he could stand to improve as the year goes on: using his left hand. He finishes almost exclusively with his right, and usually tries to get back to his right when he attacks the basket. Developing the left would make him more versatile around the rim. 

With 7:11 to play in the quarter, the Pistons are 6-of-7 on corner 3s, according to Cleaning the Glass. Nearly a fifth of their shot attempts have come from the corners, and the Hawks are in for a long night if Detroit continues hitting like this. 

Sure enough, the Hawks go to Hunter in the post against Kennard and he earns a pair of free throws. The rookie has a size advantage over nearly all of Detroit's wings and has been a focal point here in the second quarter. That could be an area the Hawks continue to exploit as the night goes on. 

In keeping with a theme of the night, Bruce Brown his a 3 from the left corner -- just his 7th made triple of the season. The Pistons are now 11-of-19 from 3 and 7-of-9 from the corners. They lead 63-49 with just over three minutes to play in the first half. 

The Hawks played one of their better offensive halves of the season, but allowed over 1.4 points per possession to Detroit -- thanks in large part to 12-of-20 shooting from 3. The Hawks made 13 of 15 shots at the rim and 10-of-10 from the foul line, but cold 3-point shooting and a 20 percent turnover rate prevented them from keeping up. 

Pistons lead 76-57. 

Third Quarter

The Pistons continue to smolder from beyond the arc, hitting four 3s in the first 3:13 of the quarter. The Hawks can do a better job closing out on and denying shooters, but consider that the Pistons' expected effective field goal percentage, according to pbpstats.com, is just 49 percent. Their actual effective field goal percentage: 76.9. Nights like these just won't happen very often. 

Vince Carter and De'Andre Bembry are trying their best to juice the Hawks' offense but having little success. Detroit has opened the lead up to 25 as they remain scorching hot from deep. Atlanta's offense is up over 1.15 points per possession, but the Pistons are getting an astonishing 1.52 points per trip, and the Hawks are starting to show signs of leakage in areas other than the arc. Pistons lead 100-75. 

Bembry is having maybe his best game of the season with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go with four steals, no turnovers, and three made 3s (he'd hit one all season before tonight). Pierce will be reluctant to keep him in the starting lineup once Reddish comes back, but he should think hard about leaving him with the first unit. Huerter should probably start once he returns, but Bembry ought to be in the mix as much as possible. 

Fourth Quarter

Hunter has been quiet since halftime, and has been subject to Blake Griffin's cruelty on the block. The rookie is already a solid and versatile defender, but nights like tonight highlight what difference seasoning and positioning can make on defense. Hunter will get there, but sometimes rookies must learn from unpleasant experiences against older, craftier players. 

The Pistons call timeout leading 120-96 with 6:09 to play, and I'd be surprised if Trae Young comes back into this one with a game coming tomorrow night at home against Toronto. Hunter, Bembry, and Parker may not be long for this game either. 

Young has really struggled with his shot tonight. His passing has been characteristically great, but he's just 3-of-12 from the field and 1-of-7 from 3. Bruce Brown has looked especially engaged on defense after getting torched by Young in October and the Pistons have sprung constant traps on him in the pick-and-roll. That's caused Young to force the issue from deep a bit more than usual, and he simply hasn't had the touch tonight. 

Meanwhile, Hunter has a career-high four assists. The Pistons will wrap this one up in a matter of 97 seconds. 

FINAL: Pistons win, 128-103. 

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