AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — With the game on the line, Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince drove toward the basket and made a tough 8-foot shot with his left hand. Then at the other end, Rodney Stuckey hounded Atlanta’s Joe Johnson and forced a missed shot in the final seconds.
In late January, Detroit failed to hold off the Hawks in a similar situation, but the Pistons have made a lot of strides since then.
“We’re learning how to fight through turbulence,” Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. “It could have been deja vu all over again … and yet we hung in there.”
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Prince’s shot with 24.3 seconds remaining gave the Pistons an 86-85 win over the Hawks on Friday night — and a measure of revenge after Detroit blew a six-point lead with under 40 seconds remaining against Atlanta in January. The Pistons lost that game in overtime, but held on in this one when Johnson missed on the Hawks’ last possession.
Josh Smith came up with the rebound for Atlanta and sank a fadeaway that was waived off for coming after the buzzer. The call was upheld after a video review.
Smith began walking toward the tunnel at the other end of the court almost immediately, showing no indication that he thought the shot might count.
“We didn’t do our job,” Smith said. “We never let them feel us on defense, and then they came out and had a great third quarter and got us out of the game.”
Greg Monroe scored 20 points and Jason Maxiell added 19 for Detroit. Smith led the Hawks with 21 and Johnson scored 18 in his first game back after missing four with left knee tendinitis.
The Hawks made their first nine shots of the game and led 50-41 at halftime after Jeff Teague blocked Monroe under the basket to end the second quarter.
The Detroit big man quickly returned the favor in the third, stuffing the 6-foot-2 Teague when the Atlanta guard tried to drive to the basket. The Pistons held Atlanta to 12 points and only two field goals in the quarter and took a 67-62 lead into the fourth.
Detroit is 10-6 since a 4-20 start.
“I told our guys before the game that this was the best 13-26 (team) we’ll ever play,” Atlanta coach Larry Drew said. “They play hard, they play physical and they never give up. You can’t ever take a game for granted in this league.”
Detroit led 75-63 after a perimeter shot by Jonas Jerebko, but the Hawks chipped away. Atlanta cut the lead to two on a 3-pointer by Smith, but Maxiell jumped high to dunk home a miss by Prince with one hand, making it 84-80.
“It’s about attacking the glass,” Maxiell said. “My eyes were closed on the dunk, as usual.”
Maxiell went 9 of 11 from the field and added 12 rebounds. Monroe was 10 of 14.
With the Pistons clinging to an 84-83 lead, Prince missed. Monroe came up with the ball but quickly lost it, and Teague went the other way for a layup with 36.6 seconds left. Prince answered for Detroit.
Prince scored 17 points and Rodney Stuckey had 11 for the Pistons. Jerebko added 10.
Marvin Williams scored 16 points for Atlanta.
Detroit has won two in a row — the Pistons also beat the Los Angeles Lakers in overtime Tuesday. Detroit is 11-11 at home and will host Toronto on Saturday night before playing 9 of 10 on the road.
“I think when you’re starting to build, you have to look for the little things,” Frank said. “Establishing a home-court advantage obviously is huge.”
NOTES: Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva was active but did not play. He’s been out since Jan. 4 because of a right ankle problem. … Atlanta was playing the third game of a six-game road trip. … The Pistons shot 56 percent from the field, but turned the ball over 20 times.