Hawks-Pistons Preview

Following a pair of discouraging home defeats, Atlanta Hawks

coach Larry Drew believes this a perfect time for his team to go on

the road.

Drew’s outlook could quickly change.

The Hawks open a difficult seven-game road trip Monday night

against the Detroit Pistons, who have won 10 of the last 11

meetings between the teams at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Atlanta (33-20) embarks on its longest road trip of the season

following Saturday’s 88-86 loss to Charlotte on Stephen Jackson’s

last-second jumper. The Hawks appeared in complete control, leading

by 22 points late in the second quarter, but shot just 29.3 percent

after halftime.

Although it was an ugly way to lose, Atlanta received an

encouraging performance from Al Horford. The two-time All-Star

center finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds in a team-high 42

minutes after missing two games with a lower back contusion.

The defeat to the Bobcats came four days after Atlanta suffered

an embarrassing 117-83 loss to Philadelphia, snapping a three-game

winning streak.

“Hopefully we can go out on the road and get well,” Drew said.

“I told them it’s a great time to go out on the road.”

Atlanta has won seven of its last nine games away from Philips

Arena, but continuing that success on this trip won’t be easy. The

two-week trek includes stops in New York, Phoenix, Golden State,

Portland, Denver and Los Angeles to face the Lakers.

One of the few non-contenders the Hawks will visit is Detroit

(20-35), a place where they typically have trouble.

Atlanta lost 103-80 at The Palace on Dec. 14, its third straight

defeat there. Josh Smith led the Hawks with 26 points and Horford

added 17, but Atlanta’s bench was outscored 46-14.

However, the Pistons have now dropped three straight home games

and five of their last six, including consecutive losses to open a

season-high five-game homestand. They were tied with Portland with

just over 1 minute remaining Sunday, but committed two costly

turnovers down the stretch and wound up losing 105-100.

Detroit coach John Kuester stayed with his reserves throughout

the fourth quarter, and they kept his club in the game. Ben Gordon

had a team-high 18 points off the bench, while backup point guard

Will Bynum added 15. The Pistons, whose bench ranks second in the

league with 38.8 points per game, saw their reserves outscore their

starters 57-43.

“Our second unit played with a great sense of urgency,” Kuester

said. “Tracy (McGrady) did some good things for us, but we needed

the rest of the first group to play with that kind of

urgency.”

McGrady finished with 16 points and shot 6 of 12 from the field.

He’d averaged 7.7 points on 33.3-percent shooting in his previous

three games.