Johnson’s 26 power Hawks past Pistons, 112-99
The surprise was after the Hawks led by 28 points in the second quarter, they had to jump on the Pistons again late.
The Hawks took a 28-point lead in the second quarter but suffered a second-half letdown. Atlanta kept its lead in double figures from the 7:17 mark of the opening quarter until Detroit’s Ben Gordon(notes) scored with 6:45 remaining to cut the lead to 96-87.
The Hawks answered with an 11-4, including seven points from Johnson, run to push the lead back to 16 points.
The Hawks moved one-half game ahead of Boston in the race for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks made 15 of 18 shots from the field in the second quarter to give the team its highest field-goal percentage in a quarter (83.3) and half (73.0) this season. The Hawks made 63 percent of their shots for the game, another season high.
Smith had 18 points, a career-high 11 assists and five steals for Atlanta.
“I never thought I’d have a double-double when one of them was not rebounds,” said Smith, who is averaging 15.9 points and 8.7 rebounds. “It felt good.”
Pistons coach John Kuester said the Hawks “know how to turn it on when they have to.”
“It’s always tough to come back when you’re down by so much,” Hamilton said. “The game is about runs, you know. And the run that they were in the first and second quarter, it’s really hard to come back. You’re fighting an uphill battle the whole game.”
Hamilton wasn’t comforted by Detroit’s attempted comeback.
“I can’t see any positives out of this game,” he said. “We lost by 30, 20, whatever. I really can’t see any positives out of this game.”
Hamilton had 14 points in the third quarter as the Pistons attempted to rally from a 69-41 halftime deficit. The Hawks’ strong start was too much to overcome.
“We were a little slow to start the third quarter, but the first half was as good a first half as we’ve played all year on both ends of the floor,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “We did everything we set out to do.”
Atlanta opened with assists on each of its 12 baskets in the first quarter and led 28-7 after an 18-1 run.
The Hawks’ 30-12 lead after the first quarter set the stage for even better shooting in the second period. Atlanta stretched its lead to 57-29.
Detroit, already playing without starters Rodney Stuckey(notes) (dizzy spells) and Ben Wallace(notes) (knee), had forward Jonas Jerebko(notes) leave the game midway through the third quarter. Jerebko, a rookie from Sweden, grimaced and grabbed his left shoulder after trying to stop a drive by Smith.
Jerebko returned to open the final period and had nine points and nine rebounds.
NOTES: Detroit’s 12 first-quarter points were the fewest allowed by Atlanta this season. … Bynum and Kuester were called for technical fouls with 6:11 remaining in the first quarter after Bynum complained he had been fouled. … The Hawks made 7 of 14 3-pointers. Crawford was good on each of his three attempts.