While they just missed a chance to extend their win streak, the short-handed Atlanta Hawks' competitive performance against one of the Eastern Conference's best teams might have kept them positive.
The Hawks have usually had rewarding experiences lately against Detroit, but the Pistons will be looking to continue their recent success at home in Friday night's matchup.
Atlanta (23-16) beat West-leading Oklahoma City and East contender Indiana during a three-game run, then appeared to have a good chance to match its longest win streak of the season when it held a 10-point lead in the third quarter at Miami on Wednesday.
The Hawks, though, couldn't hold on and Jannero Pargo's 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the rim in an 89-86 defeat.
"I thought we competed throughout the game and gave ourselves a chance to win," swingman Jerry Stackhouse said. "A basket here or there and one or two less turnovers and it might have been a different outcome. All those are correctable errors. I thought our effort was there.
"I think (Miami is) well aware if we see them in the playoffs that we're a formidable foe."
With Tracy McGrady resting, Atlanta had five players unavailable. Leading scorer Joe Johnson has missed four straight games and six of seven with a knee injury, and his status is unknown against the Pistons (13-26).
Johnson scored a season high-tying 30 points during a 107-101 overtime victory in Detroit on Jan. 27, including a tying 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left in regulation.
If Johnson sits again, Josh Smith will try to continue to pick up the slack. The forward has averaged 26.0 points and 11.5 rebounds over the last four games.
Smith had 19 points and 11 boards during the January win over Detroit and has averaged 22.2 points on 54.7 percent shooting in the last five matchups.
The Hawks have won the past three of those and nine of the last 12. They've also prevailed in their past two trips to the Palace of Auburn Hills after losing 27 of their previous 31.
The Pistons are last in the Central Division, but they have won seven of 10 at home since the most recent visit from Atlanta. They'll also seek to match a season high with their third consecutive victory there Friday.
In its latest home win, Detroit showed some resiliency against the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant sent the game into overtime with a 19-footer at the buzzer, but the Pistons recovered for an 88-85 win Tuesday.
The victory was Detroit's ninth in 15 games following a 4-20 start.
"When you just have a short amount of time with this lockout and stuff like that - new team, new coach - everything's brand new," guard Rodney Stuckey said. "It's going to take time. It's all a process."
Stuckey scored 34 points Tuesday to boost his average over the last three games to 27.7. He hasn't performed as well in his last five starts against the Hawks, averaging 9.4 points on 35.9 percent shooting.
- Atlanta Hawks