Reeling Pistons face struggling Hawks

ATLANTA — The Detroit Pistons included a home victory over the Atlanta Hawks in a five-game winning streak during early November that had them off to a 10-3 start.

It is nearing mid-December now, though, and the Pistons come to Atlanta for a Thursday night game mired in a seven-game losing streak and a deep funk.

Coach Stan Van Gundy called Detroit’s 103-84 home loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday “one of the worst ones I’ve ever had as a coach.”

The Pistons (14-13) need to get things headed back in the right direction, and they need to do it quickly.

“I’ve got to find answers. I’m not running from the responsibility. This is on me,” said Van Gundy, who is also the team president. “I selected these players. I decide who plays. I decide what we run on offense. I decide how we play defense.”

The Pistons aren’t getting the job done, though.

“That was an embarrassment,” said Van Gundy of his team’s effort — or lack of same — against Denver.

The Hawks (6-21) might be just the opponent the Pistons need to end their losing streak.

The Pistons’ 111-104 victory at Detroit on Nov. 10 was part of a 2-12 start by Atlanta. The rebuilding Hawks are 3-9 at home while posting the NBA’s worst overall record.

The Pistons, though, let a 19-point lead slip away vs. Atlanta back in November and needed a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute by Reggie Jackson to secure the victory. Andre Drummond finished with 16 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists.

“I can’t sugarcoat the second half,” Van Gundy said afterward.

The Pistons haven’t been able to find a way to win during their slump even when they play much better than they did against the Nuggets.

“When everybody was talking how great we were at 10-3, I kept saying things can change quickly in this league. And they can, and they have on us right now,” Van Gundy said.

The Hawks are coming off a 123-114 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate.

The Cavaliers made nine 3-pointers in the first quarter en route to a season-high 20, and LeBron James, who had 25 points, tied his career high with 17 assists.

The Hawks won 117-115 in Cleveland on Nov. 5 but were no match for James and the Cavaliers this time.

“LeBron is obviously a great player and a great facilitator,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We defended him pretty well, but when we pressured the ball, he kicked it out for open shots.”

Taurean Prince, a first-round draft pick in his second season, had a career-best 24 points to lead the Hawks in scoring, but he drew his third foul in the second quarter trying to guard James.

Undrafted rookie Tyler Cavanaugh got his first NBA start with the Hawks missing three inside players because of injuries. He had 11 points and nine rebounds.

“It stunk because they kind of took it to us, but it was a great opportunity to play against the best,” he said.