AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Atlanta Hawks knew the Detroit Pistons were going to start missing shots eventually.
Once they did, the game was over.
Detroit hit their first six 3-pointers while building a 15-point second-quarter lead Monday night, but the Hawks were back in front by halftime and went on to win 94-79.
“They were making every shot in the first half, but we started helping each other out,” said Josh Smith, who had 27 points and 14 rebounds for the Hawks. “I think if we do that every night, we will be a hell of a defensive team.”
Atlanta held the Pistons to just 28 percent shooting in the second half, including 3 for 16 in the fourth quarter.
“We went through a bad stretch into the second quarter, but we regained our composure, which is the sign of a good team,” Atlanta coach Larry Drew said. “We gave up 17 points in the third quarter and held them to 11 in the fourth. That’s a good win, especially on the road.”
The Pistons were booed by the small crowd of 11,844 as they left the court.
“I would have booed too,” said Charlie Villanueva of the Pistons. “We were really good early on, but every team in the NBA makes a run, but we didn’t have an answer when they did. We seemed like we got comfortable when we had the lead.”
Mike Bibby added 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Hawks, while Marvin Williams had 15 points.
“Mike got into a rhythm early and I wanted to keep him on the floor,” Drew said. “Josh was big on both ends of the floor and Marvin did a phenomenal job.”
Detroit had five players score in double figures, but Tracy McGrady led the Pistons with just 14. Detroit coach John Kuester played 10 players for at least 6 minutes in the second half, but couldn’t prevent a fourth loss in five games.
“I thought we did a real nice job in the first half, but we didn’t close the second quarter the way we wanted, and our energy was down in the third period and it stayed down,” Kuester said. “They made shots and we struggled defending them.”
The Pistons didn’t miss a 3-pointer until Villanueva bounced one off the rim early in the second quarter, and didn’t commit their first turnover until moments later.
Those two factors helped Detroit build a 41-26 lead early in the second quarter, but Atlanta went on a 27-10 run to take a 53-51 halftime lead.
“They broke out to the big lead, but we didn’t let down,” Bibby said. “We just wanted to make the shots tougher for them. We are one of the top teams in the league when we help each other defensively.”
Bibby and Joe Johnson started the second half with 3-pointers, increasing the lead to eight points. Detroit went almost 6 minutes without scoring its first points of the quarter, and were down 74-68 going into the fourth.
Detroit’s reserves had nearly pulled off a come-from-behind win Sunday against Portland, but struggled in the same role a day later. The Hawks led by 15 points early in the fourth, and cruised to the win.
“The second group had some energy, but didn’t sustain it,” Kuester said. “We had 14 assists at halftime and only ended with 20. That’s a dramatic difference.”
NOTES: Pistons G Richard Hamilton, who has only played once since Jan. 10, sat out with a groin injury on his 33rd birthday. ... Detroit lost both games of a rare home back-to-back. ... Atlanta won for the eighth time in its last 10 road games. ... The crowd was the smallest in several years at the Palace — a building that has led the NBA in attendance six times.