Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 21 points to lead all five Detroit starters in double figures, carrying the Pistons to a surprising 106-94 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night and ruining the home opener of the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season.
The Pistons, who haven’t had a winning season since 2008 and finished 28 games behind the Hawks a year ago, began to pull away just before halftime. They led by double figures through most of the final two quarters and held on despite missing 20 of their last 22 shots from the field.
Andre Drummond had 19 rebounds and 18 points for the Pistons. Marcus Morris also had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Ersan Ilyasova chipped in with 16 points and Reggie Jackson added 15.
Atlanta was looking to build on last season’s franchise-best record of 60-22 and run to the conference final. Instead, the Hawks picked up where they left off in a sweep by the Cleveland Cavaliers, losing again in familiar fashion.
The Pistons had a commanding 59-40 edge on the boards, again exposing the biggest issue to plague the Hawks last season.
Atlanta acquired 6-foot-11 Tiago Splitter from San Antonio but it made no immediate difference for one of the NBA’s worst rebounding teams.
Detroit won despite shooting just 38.5 percent (37 of 96).
Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 20 points. Paul Millsap had 19 and Jeff Teague 18, but new starter Kent Bazemore — who stepped in at small forward after DeMarre Carroll left in free agency — was held scoreless.
The Pistons gave a glimpse of what was to come right from opening tipoff. Caldwell-Pope knocked down a 3-pointer midway through the first quarter to push Detroit to a 20-10 lead.
Atlanta tied it up by the end of the period and finally pushed out to a lead early in the second. But the Hawks were never up by more than five points.
Detroit seized control with a 17-4 spurt that finished up the second quarter and carried on into the third. Caldwell-Pope started the stretch with a 3-pointer and finished it with a three-point play, putting the Pistons ahead 56-43.
The Pistons led by as many as 19.
Pistons: F Anthony Tolliver missed the game after getting word that his pregnant wife was in labor. He took a flight home early Tuesday to be with his spouse and their new daughter.
Hawks: G Tim Hardaway Jr., who was acquired from New York for a first-round draft pick, was surprisingly on the inactive list for his first game with Atlanta. He was denied a chance to go against his father, an assistant coach for the Pistons. … Rookie G-F Lamar Patterson, a second-round pick in 2014 who played last season in Turkey, had 5 points in 18 minutes. … Atlanta picked up the fourth-year contract options on both Hardaway and Schroder. … F Mike Muscala went out with a sprained right ankle and did not return.
Pistons: Host Utah in their home opener on Wednesday night.
Hawks: After a day off, travel to New York to face the Knicks on Thursday night.