Game Preview: A Hurting Pistons Team Returns from West Coast to Host the Hawks

The Pistons (19-24) return to the Palace Wednesday night after a five-game west coast trip to play host to the Atlanta Hawks (24-17). The game is a 7:00 EST tip off where Detroit will look to build on their recent win over the L.A. Lakers.

Projected Starters

Detroit: Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Marcus Morris, Jon Leuer, Andre Drummond

Atlanta: Dennis Schroder, Thabo Sefolosha, Kent Bazemore, Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard

The recent road trip was not easy on the Pistons in more ways than one. Of course, the team couldn’t pull out a winning record on the west coast swing, dropping three of the five games they played. However, the tole it took physically may play a bigger impact than the losses to Utah, Sacramento, and Golden State. John Leuer has missed the last four games with a bone bruise. He returned to practice yesterday, but he likely isn’t 100% yet. An even bigger loss was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has arguably been the teams best player this year. KCP suffered a shoulder sprain in the loss to Golden State and looks like he will be out for this game.

The Pistons have struggled to find answers as of late, especially with the injuries. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and have slipped out of the eastern conference playoff standings. It has been the same problems the team has struggled with all year at the heart of their slide. Inconsistent effort, lack of defense, and not always moving the ball and finding the open man. With the injury woes on top of these preexisting problems, it will be an up hill battle to get back into the playoff mix over the next few weeks.

For the Hawks, things are trending in the opposite direction. They have won nine of their last ten and have put themselves at the top end of the conference. Their only loss of late was a two-point defeat at the hands of the Celtics, another one of the top teams in the east. This has come with a well-rounded team effort, not showing a weakness in any area on the floor.

Atlanta is led by their big men, Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard. Millsap is the teams leading scorer at 17.8 ppg. He is a versatile big man who can shoot the ball from the outside as well as take it down low. Howard provides the team with a legitimate shot blocker and is the teams leading rebounder at 13.3 boards per game. With this kind of muscle inside, it allows the Hawks perimeter defenders, an area they are very strong in, to play aggressively and without fear.

Key Match Up: Look for the Drummond vs Howard battle to steal the spotlight tonight. Drummond is constantly compared to the last great big man coach Van Gundy had in Dwight Howard. That pairing went all the way to the NBA finals while in Orlando and I know Pistons fans would eventually like to see SVG do the same in Detroit with Drummond. Both guys are capable of dominating and it will be a fun battle to watch all night.

Injury Report:

Caldwell-Pope is still out with his shoulder sprain.

John Leuer returned to practice yesterday and is expected to play tonight.

Aron Baynes and Andre Drummond both missed practice yesterday with knee pain, but they are both expected to play tonight.

Dwight Howard missed the Hawks last game, but that was just a scheduled day of rest on a back to back. He should be fresh and ready to go tonight.

Featured image: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports