Pistons-Hawks Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Hawks are contending for home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason, while the Detroit Pistons likely will be watching the playoffs at home for a third straight year.

That hasn't stopped the contests between the teams from being extremely competitive this season.

Detroit seeks to match a season-high four-game winning streak Friday night when it visits Atlanta, which looks for its seventh straight home victory in the series.

The Pistons (21-33) probably dug themselves too big a hole by starting the season 4-20, but they've made a late-season surge and have won five of six after beating Washington 99-94 at home Thursday.

Greg Monroe scored a team-high 18 points and Rodney Stuckey added 15 off the bench in his return from a hamstring injury for Detroit, which now has a chance to equal its season-best winning streak set Feb. 3-10.

Stuckey fouled out after less than 19 minutes of playing time, but was satisfied overall.

"Coach (Lawrence Frank) did a great job of getting me the time that I needed,'' said Stuckey, who had missed the previous three games. "I'm not 100 percent, but I'm working my way back into it. I just played my game without thinking about the hamstring. If I retweak it, I do, but I can't let it stop me from playing.''

Stuckey assisted on Tayshaun Prince's jumper with 24 seconds remaining that gave Detroit an 86-85 win over Atlanta in the most recent meeting March 9, ending the Hawks' three-game overall winning streak in the series.

Joe Johnson missed a potential winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in that game, but his 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation in the previous meeting Jan. 27 sent the game into overtime, where Atlanta pulled away for a 107-101 victory.

Both those games took place in Detroit. The Hawks (32-23) have defeated the Pistons six straight times in Atlanta, most recently 104-96 on March 20, 2011.

Johnson and the rest of the Hawks' starters got a break Wednesday, resting the entire fourth quarter of a 120-93 rout of NBA-worst Charlotte.

Josh Smith finished with a game-high 24 points and is averaging 26.0 over his last nine games.

"At halftime, the message was to start the third quarter very aggressively and let's see if we can create some more separation,'' coach Larry Drew said. ''I thought our guys did that in the third quarter, and I was really happy that we were able to rest those guys in the fourth quarter.''

Willie Green took advantage of the reserves' extended time by scoring 17 points off the bench, and Jannero Pargo added 12 in his return after missing the previous 10 games due to an appendectomy.

"The bench players pretty much did what we've been doing all year, which is come in and just try to lift our team and give us some energy,'' Pargo said.

The Hawks had lost three of four before beating the Bobcats, but they're still tied with Orlando for fifth in the Eastern Conference and trail third-place Indiana by just 1 1/2 games.

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