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Hawks get defensive in win over Pistons

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The Atlanta Hawks flexed their defensive muscles in Friday’s 105-98 win over the Detroit Pistons.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks successfully avenged an earlier blowout loss by defeating the Detroit Pistons 105-98 for their second straight home win. Atlanta led by as many as 17 points before a late Pistons run tightened things up. The Hawks never lost control of the game however in one of their best efforts of the month.

“I thought the activity defensively and the effort defensively, for three quarters, the majority of the game was good,” Mike Budenholzer said after the game. “Allowing 36 in the fourth is obviously not good. They got a little desperate and started shooting three’s. Overall, I was really happy with the defense.”

Atlanta’s calling card under Budenholzer has been that of a defense first team. They began the season well but have slipped of late. The Hawks are sixth in the league in defensive efficiency allowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions but are just 21st allowing 106.8 over their last 22 games.

Atlanta limited Detroit to just 38 percent shooting through the first three quarters of the game. The Pistons connected on six of their nine made three-pointers in the fourth quarter.

“Our emphasis was just being more aggressive,” Kyle Korver said when asked about the defensive game plan. “We stayed in a more aggressive coverage tonight. It’s actually a coverage that can give up more three’s to be honest with you. But it just helps us to play more aggressively. That’s what we need to do right now. The soft defense carries over into the soft offense sometimes. We’re trying to find our way still, but we did enough to win.”

The Hawks didn’t have a lot of problems offensively in this one. Paul Millsap sat out the first meeting with the Pistons but was big in this one finishing with a game-high 26 points.

“What he does in pick-and-roll defense, his ability to get back to guys,” Budenholzer said when asked about Millsap’s game. “He does a lot of things defensively. Obviously offensively he’s pretty good too.”

Atlanta shot 44 percent for the game and racked up 29 assists on 39 made baskets.

“For the most part, we moved the ball really well,” Korver added. “I thought we had a good presence in the paint. Dwight was big and found the boards. Some big offensive rebounds and just him rolling to the basket opened things up for Dennis. We finally shot the ball decent. We just had a bad shooting stretch as a team. Overall we made shots and played with a higher level of energy.”

Korver was a big part of the Hawks’ offensive success scoring a season-best 22 points off the bench. Dennis Schröder added 17 points and seven assists while Dwight Howard logged a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds.

“We wanted to finish this part of the season and head into the New Year right,” Howard said. We got two good wins and we’re hoping to get one more.”

Atlanta will close out a three-game home stand on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs before hitting the road for four-straight.