Winners of eight straight, the Pistons look to complete a season series-sweep of the Hawks when the teams meet Tuesday night at Philips Arena.
Detroit (37-13), long known as a team that has had a tough time at the start of games, has dominated the first half of each of its last two contests. The Pistons led by as many as 27 points in the first 24 minutes of a 91-82 win over Portland on Friday night, and it took them less then a quarter to build a 27-7 lead en route to a 113-87 rout of Charlotte two days later.
“This team has been criticized since I got here for starting slowly,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “You can’t say that about them right now.”
Detroit’s only serious challenge during a 5-0 homestand was a 90-89 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 31, when it needed a late 3-pointer from Tayshaun Prince to secure the victory. The Pistons also jumped out to a big lead against the Hawks (21-26) in the teams’ last matchup, outscoring them 47-33 in the first half of a 91-81 victory on Dec. 14.
That was Detroit’s third win over Atlanta this season. A victory Tuesday would give the Pistons a sweep of their season series with the Hawks for the first time since 2000-01.
Detroit will be facing an Atlanta team that came out sluggish in its last game, scoring just 31 points in the first half of a 108-89 loss to Houston on Saturday. The Hawks’ 10 points in the second quarter were a season low and no starter reached double figures in scoring.
“Hopefully, we get a little fire after a loss like this,” said Hawks swingman Josh Childress, who had a team-high 18 off the bench.
With the game out of reach, Atlanta ended up pulling its starters down the stretch. Detroit, meanwhile, has been able to rest its starters because it has been so dominant early in games.
Chauncey Billups has not played in the second quarter in either of the Pistons’ last two matchups. The All-Star guard had 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting in Detroit’s win over Atlanta in December.
“These last two games have been good for us, because the bench has gotten extended minutes and they’ve taken advantage of it,” Billups said.
Billups and backcourt mate Richard Hamilton will be joined by Rasheed Wallace in the All-Star game. Wallace was named to the Eastern Conference team Sunday, replacing injured Boston star Kevin Garnett.
Wallace is averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He’s averaging just 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 37.5 percent (9-for-24) in his three games versus the Hawks this season.