Pistons, Hawks trending in different directions (Dec 30, 2016)

BY AP • December 29, 2016

ATLANTA -- Earlier this month the Detroit Pistons handed the Atlanta Hawks one of their worst defeats of the season. The Pistons were headed on an upward trajectory, having won five of six, while the Hawks were in the throes of a seven-game losing streak.

When the teams meet for the second time on Friday at Philips Arena in Atlanta, the situations are quite different from that encounter on Dec. 2, when Detroit whipped the Hawks 121-85.

Detroit (15-19) has lost six of its last seven, including Wednesday's 119-94 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Atlanta (16-16) has stopped its freefall and won six of its last 10, including Wednesday's 102-98 overtime win against the New York Knicks.

Coach Stan Van Gundy turned the heat on himself after the Pistons were handed their 12th double-digit loss of the season.

"This is entirely on me," he said. "We have had too many games where we are getting buried. I'm embarrassed right now and I have a lot of thinking to find a way to get this fixed. This is brutal."

Van Gundy's decision to use forward Tobias Harris off the bench has worked. Harris had 23 points and 12 rebounds on Wednesday. Harris has led the team in scoring in each of the three games he has played since taking the sixth-man role.

The Pistons tried to use only eight men in the first half against the Bucks. Van Gundy also tried a lineup that included both point guards, Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith, in the game at the same time; it resulted in a 14-10 advantage during the first six minutes of the second quarter.

Van Gundy will also need to find a way to neutralize Atlanta center Dwight Howard, whom he previously coached at Orlando. The Pistons did a good job frustrating Howard in the first game and he finished with two points and six rebounds, easily his least productive game of the season.

Atlanta didn't have forward Paul Millsap in that first game and Detroit took advantage on the boards, outrebounding the Hawks 54-32.

The Hawks might be weary after its physical encounter with the Knicks. Coach Mike Budenholzer relied heavily on six players, with four of the starters going nearly 40 minutes. Point guard Dennis Schroder had 27 points and five assists to lead the win.

"That's big time," Schroder said. "I'm glad we won the game. Everybody fought for 48 minutes and in overtime, the extra five minutes. I'm happy we won the game.

Howard's back issues, which forced him to miss three starts, appear to be resolved; he had 16 points and 22 rebounds against the Knicks. He ranks third in the league with 13.3 rebounds.

But Atlanta's Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to struggle with a right groin injury that kept him out of two games. He played 13 minutes against the Knicks but was 0-for-7 from the floor.

Atlanta is 12-3 in its last 15 home meetings with the Pistons.



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