Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/4/13
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Building big leads doesn't seem to be a problem for the Detroit Pistons. Maintaining them is something they haven't mastered. The Pistons led the Atlanta Hawks by 17 points with seven minutes remaining on Friday, then barely held on for an 85-84 victory at The Palace. They have won four in a row despite being outscored 75-52 in the final quarter of their last three games, including a 22-11 deficit to Atlanta. It's been a season-long trend, as they lost eight games this season after establishing double-digit leads. "We've been improving," said center Greg Monroe, who had 18 points and nine rebounds. "We still have a ways to go but we're finding ways to win now." Austin Daye scored a season-high 20 points off the bench for the Pistons (13-22) and Jason Maxiell contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds. Rodney Stuckey, who missed the previous three games with a left ankle sprain, added 10 points. They can sweep their five-game homestand with a victory over Charlotte on Sunday. Daye, whose previous high was 13 points, had 16 first-half points as the Pistons took a 15-point halftime lead. He was out of the rotation until mid-December. "My teammates did a good job finding me early and then Coach (Lawrence Frank) ran a couple of plays for me," Daye said. "It feels good to be out there and feel comfortable again. Also, coach is showing a lot of confidence in me by running pick-and-roll things for me. Before, I wasn't really getting a whole lot of that." The Hawks nearly completed their comeback in the closing seconds. Al Horford seemingly tied the game on a 3-pointer with 5.6 seconds left but the officials ruled he had a toe on the line after a video review. In the final second, Lou Williams had a 20-foot jumper deflected by Pistons center Andre Drummond. "Coming into the game, we wanted to eliminate momentum plays for them and match their physicality," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "For three quarters, we didn't do that. In the fourth quarter, we did a better job with it." Josh Smith topped Atlanta with 20 points, Horford had 18 points and 15 rebounds and Williams chipped in 17 points. The Hawks (20-11) had won five of their last six, including a 126-119 double overtime victory over the Pistons in Atlanta on Dec. 26. Smith aggravated a hip injury in the first half and only played six seconds in the fourth quarter. Will Bynum's layup gave the Pistons a seemingly comfortable 83-66 advantage with seven minutes left. Atlanta then came roaring back, reeling off 16 unanswered points. Kyle Korver and Williams made back-to-back 3-pointer to make it 83-82 with 3:13 left. Stuckey's layup with 2:15 remaining finally broke Detroit's scoring drought. The Hawks didn't score again until Horford's basket in the closing seconds. Tayshaun Prince then threw away the inbounds pass to Hawks guard Jeff Teague with the Pistons out of timeouts. After an Atlanta timeout, Williams' corner jumper was partially blocked and clanged off the side of the backboard. "There was a sense of urgency in the fourth quarter," Korver said. "We just didn't play smart enough in the first three quarters. We missed open shots and let it affect us." NOTES: Korver fired in the 1,200th 3-pointer of his career early in the third after missing his first five attempts. ... Hawks guards Devin Harris (sore left foot) and Anthony Morrow (right hip strain) and center Johan Petro (flu) did not make the trip. ... Atlanta has a 9-6 road record, second best among Eastern Conference teams to Chicago. ... Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva, who was ejected and then fined $25,000 by the league for a flagrant foul against Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas on Tuesday, went scoreless. He had made at least three 3-pointers in five straight games. ... Atlanta was averaging 27.7 assists over the last six games, lifting it to second in the NBA with a 23.4 average per game. It had 26 Friday. ... The Hawks are 5-2 with Williams in the starting lineup. ... Detroit entered the game ninth in defensive field-goal percentage at 44.0 percent. The Hawks shot 41.3 percent. Opponents shot 46.2 percent against the Pistons last season. ... The Pistons' bench has outscored the opposition's reserves by an average of 5.7 points per game. They had a 41-14 advantage over Atlanta. "Given the way their team has played the last seven or eight games, the bench is a huge part of why they've had success," Drew said.
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