The Atlanta Hawks played host to Blake Griffin and the new-look Detroit Pistons Sunday afternoon, taking on a team that had won four of five since acquiring the five-time All-Star in a six-player trade that sent Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley to the Clippers. In a game that featured nine ties and 23 lead changes, the Hawks overcame a three-point deficit with 2:24 to play to defeat the Pistons 118-115.
The Hawks trailed 107-104 just outside of the two minute mark before Ersan Ilyasova pulled the Hawks within a point with a 17-foot jumper. The Hawks extended the Ilyasova basket to an 8-0 run when Dewayne Dedmon made two of the biggest plays of the game.
With 1:34 to play, Dedmon followed up a Dennis Schroder miss with a put-back while getting fouled by by Pistons’ point guard Ish Smith. Dedmon made the free throw to put the Hawks ahead 109-107. After a Jameer Nelson missed jumper, Dedmon caught a pass from Kent Bazemore and drilled a three pointer from the right wing to increase the lead to 112-107. The Hawks never looked back, as six free throws from Schroder sealed the victory.
Dedmon puts back a Schroder miss while getting fouled. The ensuing free throw put the Hawks ahead 109-107 with 1:34 to play.
When asked if he was trying to take charge late in the game, Dedmon said “No, I was just trying to come out, be aggressive and play my game.” From there, he added his description of the play that yielded his critical three-pointer, “What I saw was Baze coming off the pick-and-roll and I was in the middle of back-pedaling and he found me. So it was just ‘let it fly’.”
Dedmon makes a three pointer over the outstretched arms of Andre Drummond to give the Hawks a five point lead with less than a minute to play.
Dedmon, getting his first start since Nov. 25, tied a career high with 20 points, which he set earlier in the season versus the Kings. He also added 13 rebounds, three steals and a block in 31 minutes, the most minutes he has logged in a game since Nov. 6. In his 17 games since he has returned from injury, Coach Mike Budenholzer has played him off the bench but struck the right chord when inserting him back into the starting lineup versus the Pistons.
Budenholzer was pleased with the results, “I thought Dewayne gave us a lot of good things. Obviously he makes shots…he makes the big three in front of their bench to put us up five,” adding “Defensively, he contested. Drummond on the boards is such a handful. It’s a huge challenge. Dewayne was great tonight.”
Under different circumstances, Dedmon might not have been in the game to make those big plays. He was on the bench with 3:30 left to play in the game when Hawks’ rookie John Collins committed his sixth foul. Coach Budenholzer has been giving rookies Collins and Tyler Dorsey extended late game action as of late, but Collins’ sixth foul forced Budenholzer’s hand and set the stage for the exciting finish.
The Hawks set the tone early that they would not allow the Pistons to have their way. A see-saw first quarter saw the two teams trade baskets most of the period. A 5-0 Pistons’ run late in the quarter forced Budenholzer to use a timeout with 2:04 remaining and the Hawks trailing 22-21. After the timeout, the Hawks finished the period on a 7-1 run to end the opening quarter with a 28-23 lead.
Rookie to rookie, Collins finds Dorsey for the open three pointer to give the Hawks a 28-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Hawks maintained control until another 7-1 Pistons’ run put Detroit in from 38-37 with 7:59 to play in the opening half. The Hawks responded with a 7-0 run to regain control and force Pistons’ coach Stan Van Gundy to use a timeout with his team trailing 44-38.
Later in the period, the Hawks led 53-46 but Pistons’ wing Reggie Bullock refused to allow the Hawks to go to the half with a lead. Bullock scored ten points in final two minutes during a 10-2 run. After leading most of the second quarter, the Hawks trailed at the half 56-55.
Bullock hits a three pointer as part of a singled-handed 10-2 run to close the first half with the Pistons leading 56-55.
The third quarter was again a back and forth struggle. Neither team was able put together three unanswered scores in a period that saw several ties and lead changes. After the game was tied 66-66 mid way through the period, the Hawks found a rhythm on both ends of the floor.
For several minutes, the Hawks matched each Pistons’ score with two of their own managing a 16-7 run over the course of five minutes of play. The run was capped by a three point play from Malcolm Delaney giving the Hawks a 82-73 lead with 1:25 left in the period.
A three point play from Delaney gives the Hawks a 82-73 lead late in the third quarter.
But the Pistons again found a way to close out the period on a strong note using a 7-0 to pull within two. The Hawks led 82-80 heading to the final period.
Early in the fourth, the team exchanged baskets for several possessions resulting in an 87-85 Hawks’ lead just ninety seconds into the period. The Pistons took control with seven unanswered points capped by a three-pointer from Anthony Tolliver giving the Pistons a 92-87 lead.
The Hawks would not allow the Pistons to run away with the game keeping contact by staying within two possessions at all times. The Pistons’ largest fourth quarter lead came with 6:03 to play on two free throws from Stanley Johnson giving the Pistons a 101-95 lead.
The Hawks scrapped their way back to within a point on two Ilyasova free throws followed by five points from Schroder to trail 103-102 with 4:01 to play. On the next Pistons possession, Collins committed his sixth foul, Griffin made both free throws for the three point Pistons’ lead, but then the stage was set for Dedmon’s late game heroics before six Schroder free throws would put the game a way for good.
Schroder uses a double screen to get to the basket for a layup pulling the Hawks within a point with four minutes to play.
Scroder led the Hawks with 23 points and seven assists. In addition to Dedmon’s twenty, Ilyasova added 19 points. Bazemore, Dorsey and Delaney added ten each.
Drummond led the Pistons with 25 points and 15 rebounds. Griffin scored 23 while Bullock scored 20 for the game.
In a game that was officiated tightly, both teams combined for 53 fouls. The Hawks made 32 of a season high 37 free throw attempts. The Pistons shot 26 of 33 from the line.
The Hawks have two games remaining before the All-Star break. They will play the Bucks in Milwaukee on Tuesday night before a rematch with the Pistons in Detroit on Wednesday night.