Hawks survive Pistons after giving up 28-point lead

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Hawks followed through with their plan to jump on the Detroit Pistons early.

The surprise was after the Hawks led by 28 points in the second quarter, they had to jump on the Pistons again late.

Joe Johnson scored 26 points and the Hawks had their best shooting game of the season but still had to hold off Detroit's late comeback to beat the Pistons 112-99 on Saturday night.

The Hawks took a 28-point lead in the second quarter but suffered a second-half letdown. Atlanta kept its lead in double figures from the 7:17 mark of the opening quarter until Detroit's Ben Gordon scored with 6:45 remaining to cut the lead to 96-87.

The Hawks answered with an 11-4, including seven points from Johnson, run to push the lead back to 16 points.

"We've been letting teams back in games," Atlanta's Josh Smith said. "We were able to get that final push in the fourth quarter."

The Hawks moved one-half game ahead of Boston in the race for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks made 15 of 18 shots from the field in the second quarter to give the team its highest field-goal percentage in a quarter (83.3) and half (73.0) this season. The Hawks made 63 percent of their shots for the game, another season high.

"It's all about teams making their runs," Atlanta's Al Horford said. "We were able to handle their run. We didn't give them any life."

Smith had 18 points, a career-high 11 assists and five steals for Atlanta.

"I never thought I'd have a double-double when one of them was not rebounds," said Smith, who is averaging 15.9 points and 8.7 rebounds. "It felt good."

Jamal Crawford had 17 points and Horford added 15 for the Hawks.

Pistons coach John Kuester said the Hawks "know how to turn it on when they have to."

Jason Maxiell led Detroit with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Richard Hamilton had 18 points for the Pistons, who have lost eight of 10.

"It's always tough to come back when you're down by so much," Hamilton said. "The game is about runs, you know. And the run that they were in the first and second quarter, it's really hard to come back. You're fighting an uphill battle the whole game."

Hamilton wasn't comforted by Detroit's attempted comeback.

"I can't see any positives out of this game," he said. "We lost by 30, 20, whatever. I really can't see any positives out of this game."

Former Georgia Tech guard Will Bynum had 17 points and seven assists one night after he set a career high with 20 assists in Detroit's 101-87 win over Washington.

Hamilton had 14 points in the third quarter as the Pistons attempted to rally from a 69-41 halftime deficit. The Hawks' strong start was too much to overcome.

"We were a little slow to start the third quarter, but the first half was as good a first half as we've played all year on both ends of the floor," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "We did everything we set out to do."

Atlanta opened with assists on each of its 12 baskets in the first quarter and led 28-7 after an 18-1 run.

The Hawks' 30-12 lead after the first quarter set the stage for even better shooting in the second period. Atlanta stretched its lead to 57-29.

Detroit, already playing without starters Rodney Stuckey (dizzy spells) and Ben Wallace (knee), had forward Jonas Jerebko leave the game midway through the third quarter. Jerebko, a rookie from Sweden, grimaced and grabbed his left shoulder after trying to stop a drive by Smith.

Jerebko returned to open the final period and had nine points and nine rebounds.

Game notes
Detroit's 12 first-quarter points were the fewest allowed by Atlanta this season. ... Bynum and Kuester were called for technical fouls with 6:11 remaining in the first quarter after Bynum complained he had been fouled. ... The Hawks made 7 of 14 3-pointers. Crawford was good on each of his three attempts.