Pistons 90, Hawks 88

Rookie Jonas Jerebko has been one of the few bright spots in a
terrible season for the Detroit Pistons.

Now, as Detroit plays out the string, it might have found
another surprising first-year contributor.

With the Pistons down to eight healthy players, Austin Daye
played a career-high 44 minutes Wednesday night and finished with
his first double-double in a 90-88 victory over the Atlanta
Hawks.

Daye, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds, hadn’t played more than
33 minutes in an NBA game, and had a career high of 36 at
Gonzaga.

“I was kind of surprised that I felt that good playing that
many minutes,” said Daye, who played 23 minutes Tuesday night
against Philadelphia. “I found out right before the game that I
was starting, but I felt like I was prepared.”

The career night came at the end of a tumultuous 48 hours for
Daye, who missed Detroit’s flight to Philadelphia on Monday, then
took out his anger in vague messages on Twitter. He had nine points
and nine rebounds in the win over the 76ers, which snapped an
11-game losing streak.

“The last month has been tough, but we didn’t want to finish
the season playing that way,” Daye said. “We really tried to fire
each other up for the game in Philly, and it carried over to
tonight.”

Given the circumstances, Pistons coach John Kuester was
impressed with his slender 6-foot-11 rookie, who has played every
position from point guard to power forward.

“In the last two nights, Austin has really shown signs of
figuring the game out,” Kuester said. “I can’t imagine the last
time he played 44 minutes, but he did a great job.”

Daye replaced Tayshaun Prince, who missed the game for personal
reasons. Detroit also came into the game missing Richard Hamilton
(ankle), Jason Maxiell (back) and Chris Wilcox (hamstring), then
lost Rodney Stuckey to a first-half rib injury.

The Hawks (49-29) have lost two straight and fell into a tie
with Boston for third place in the Eastern Conference.

“We just self-destructed again down the stretch,” Atlanta
coach Mike Woodson said. “That’s something we’ve got to figure out
before we start playing playoff basketball.”

Ben Gordon had 22 points for Detroit and made two key defensive
plays in the final minute, while Will Bynum added 17.

“Ben hit some big shots, and he also worked hard defensively,”
Kuester said. “That’s the rhythm we expect him to play.”

Jamal Crawford led Atlanta with 19 points, but missed a tying
3-pointer with 12 seconds left.

Both teams struggled offensively in the fourth quarter, but
Gordon’s 3-pointer pulled the Pistons within 84-81 with 2:35 to
go.

The Hawks missed three of four free-throw attempts on their next
two possessions, and Bynum’s three-point play cut the Atlanta lead
to 85-84 with 56.5 seconds left.

Gordon then intercepted a pass and was fouled by Mike Bibby. He
hit both free throws to put the Pistons ahead, then knocked away
another pass, resulting in a shot-clock violation.

“The turnovers were huge,” Woodson said. “Our veteran guards
turned it over, and that shouldn’t happen. Ben Gordon gets his
hands on two deflections, one leads to a foul and the other leads
to a bad shot. We have to clean that up.”

Bynum made it 88-85 with two free throws, and after Crawford’s
miss, Jerebko clinched the game from the line.

The game was tied at 48 at the half, but the Pistons started
quickly in the third and built a 56-50 lead.

The advantage was short-lived, however, as Atlanta responded
with a 20-6 run to go up 70-62 late in the period, and the Hawks
still led by seven entering the fourth.

NOTES: Ben Wallace made all four free throws in the game,
extending his streak to six. Before that, he had missed 22 of his
previous 25 attempts. … Because of the Detroit injuries, veteran
reserve Chucky Atkins played for the first time since March 15. …
Kuester and Woodson were both assistants under Larry Brown on
Detroit’s 2004 championship team.