Though the Pistons would never quite go away, the Hawks managed to escape comfortably with a 105-98 win on Friday night.
After swapping wins for losses in the last nine games, Atlanta won its second straight game for the first time since a December 9 win over the Bucks.
With just more than four minutes remaining, Reggie Jackson hit a layup to bring the Pistons within four -- the narrowest lead for Atlanta in the second half. On an optimistic lob from Dennis Schroder into traffic, Dwight Howard leapt up and tipped it in while getting fouled for a timely bucket. After he made the free throw, Andre Drummond slammed in a dunk to make it 95-90. With two minutes left, Howard tipped in a Paul Millsap miss to extend the Hawks’ lead to seven, and they would never look back from there.
Millsap led the Hawks with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists on 9-of-20 shooting. Kyle Korver added a season-high 22 points off the bench on 7-of-13 shooting. The Hawks’ 29 assists were the second most of the season, trailing the 36 against Orlando earlier in the month. Jon Leuer led the Pistons with 22, and Reggie Jackson added 20.
Detroit finally found a rhythm offensively in the fourth quarter to make a mini-run at the Hawks lead. After Korver’s three-pointer to give Atlanta an 84-72 lead with 8:42 remaining, the Pistons scored nine of the next 12 points to cut the lead to six points for the first time since the second quarter.
Both teams got off to a sloppy start as they combined for 10 made field goals compared to eight turnovers at the first timeout with 4:53 remaining. Drummond and Jackson finished the quarter a combined 1-of-11 from the field, but Leuer paced the Pistons with eight points and four rebounds. After missing his first three shots, Millsap made three of his next four to lead the Hawks with eight points in the first. Despite shooting just 38 percent from the field, Atlanta leaned on its defense and survived the first quarter tied at 19-apiece.
The Hawks found more of a groove offensively late in the second quarter to build a solid lead going into halftime. Korver made four of his five shots in the period — all inside the three-point line — to lead Atlanta with 11 points. Detroit struggled to score again, making just eight field goals in the quarter. Shooting 52 percent in the quarter, the Hawks build their largest lead in the game as they went into the locker room with a 51-41 lead.
Atlanta assisted 15 of its 20 field goals in the first half and forced 10 turnovers from Detroit. The two teams combined for a miserable 4-of-26 mark from the three-point line. Leuer led all scorers with 13 points.
Starting the third quarter off with a 7-0 run, the Hawks quickly took a game-high 17-point lead before Stan Van Gundy called an immediate timeout just 1:11 into the half. Atlanta failed to build off of the hot start, though, as the Pistons continued to stay within striking distance. Millsap led the Hawks with nine points in the quarter, but the team shot just 38.5 percent from the field and struggled to keep Detroit off of the glass. Still, the Pistons couldn’t get much going offensively with another low-scoring quarter, and Atlanta went into the final period with a 74-62 lead.
The Hawks will look to win their third straight game for the first time since their six-game winning streak early in November when they face the Spurs at home on Sunday. Stay tuned for more.