Hawks-Pistons Preview

The Associated Press

Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew feels his team regressed a bit in an ugly loss its last time out.

Detroit Pistons coach Lawrence Frank believes his squad took a step forward in its latest game, even though the result was another defeat.

Drew hopes his Hawks can shore up their defense Friday night when they visit a Pistons team trying to build on an encouraging performance.

Atlanta (13-6) begins this season series at the halfway point of a five-game road trip after losing 105-83 to San Antonio on Wednesday. The Hawks never led after the first quarter and got no closer than 15 in the fourth en route to their most lopsided defeat of the season.

Their offense never got in rhythm, finishing with 17 assists and 17 turnovers, while dropping to 0-5 when scoring fewer than 90 points. Joe Johnson, who had averaged 22.6 points in his previous seven games, finished with 10. Josh Smith scored 13 on 6-of-17 shooting and matched a season low with five rebounds.

Smith, who appeared to be developing into a potential All-Star in the wake of Al Horford's injury, could fare a bit better against Detroit. He averaged 23.0 points on 59.3 percent shooting and 9.5 rebounds versus the Pistons last season as the Hawks took three of four meetings.

While Smith and the Hawks struggled offensively Wednesday, their defense was worse.

Atlanta allowed the Spurs to shoot 51.2 percent - no other opponent this season hit better than 48.6 - and gave up more than 100 points in regulation for just the second time.

"All the things that we talked about that we needed to do from a defensive standpoint, we didn't get it done," Drew said. "We had multiple defensive breakdowns. ... It just seemed time and time again we kept losing people, for whatever reason."

Atlanta may have an easier time defensively against Detroit, averaging a league-low 85.6 points.

The Pistons (4-15) are the NBA's only team yet to reach the century mark in scoring, though that designation was nearly expunged Wednesday against Miami.

After Detroit trailed by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter, Jonas Jerebko's 3-pointer with 1:33 remaining capped an 18-5 run to put the Pistons up 98-95. Detroit wouldn't hit another shot, however, and LeBron James made his final six free throw attempts to hand the Pistons a 101-98 loss.

"I thought our guys showed great fight, spirit and resolve," Frank said after his team's 12th loss in 14 games. "You have to look at the fight for the whole game. If we can establish this as part of our DNA, we'll put ourselves in position to win a lot of games, but it can't be just (against) Miami."

Frank also was pleased by the sudden emergence of Austin Daye, who helped pick up the scoring slack with Ben Gordon sitting out a third straight game due to a sore shoulder. Daye scored a career-high 28 points after combining for 45 in his first 13 games.

"Hopefully this is a springboard type of opportunity for him," Frank said.

The Hawks hope they'll see continued improvement from Kirk Hinrich, who made his season debut Wednesday after recovering from shoulder surgery. He finished with seven points on 3-of-4 shooting in 14 minutes.

"It felt pretty good," Hinrich said. "The last thing I wanted to happen was to come back and have some sort of setback, or wasn't able to just do the things I needed to do to contribute."

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