Vivlamore reporting from Philips Arena. Here is my updated game story, with quotes, for those who would like to comment.
No letdown, only a smackdown.
The Hawks erased any concern they would fall to an inferior opponent minutes into a 116-84 utter dismantling of the Pistons at Philips Arena Wednesday night. They set season-highs for points in a quarter (39) and points in a half (72) in building an early lead the Pistons had no hope of overcoming.
The Hawks (37-25) were guarding against a letdown similar to the one suffered against the Raptors on Sunday, a loss they rebounded from the following night in Toronto. They led by 10 points with 7:33 remaining in the first quarter, by 20 with 11:44 left in the second quarter and by 30 with 4:42 left in the first half.
“That’s two games in a row we came out with a lot of energy,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “After a poor start against Toronto as far as our energy was concerned, we came out tonight and we got off to a good start really getting up and down the floor, moving the ball well and once we started going to the bench they energy was there as well.”
The Hawks kept pace with the Celtics (37-26), Friday night’s opponent, who defeated the Magic Wednesday. On the line over the final four games is the right to host a first-round playoff series. The Hawks, currently fifth in the Eastern Conference, will try to avenge two earlier season losses to the Celtics, who currently would be their first-round playoff opponent.
“I’m not sure what happened Sunday, but we are ahead now,” Joe Johnson said. “We control our own destiny. We just have to win out and everything else will take care of itself. Every game from here on out is important. We knew we let one get away our last home game so we wanted to come out and really set the tone.”
With four home games remaining in the regular season, the Hawks are searching for consistency and momentum going into the postseason.
The Hawks have won two consecutive and six of their past eight. They won the season series with the Pistons, 3-1, and ran their home winning streak against them to eight games.
The Hawks had six players in double-figures scoring, led by Tracy McGrady with a season-high 17 points. The others were Ivan Johnson (16), Joe Johnson (13), Josh Smith (12), Marvin Williams (10) and Willie Green (10). The team also recorded a season-high 72 bench points.
“With the guys we have coming off the bench, some of them could be starters on other teams, we’ve got veteran guys that know how to play and we provide great energy on both ends,” McGrady said.
The Pistons (23-39) lost for the sixth time in eight games. They were led by Greg Monroe with 17 points. They closed the game on an 11-2 run, as they Hawks went on a stretch of 4:21 without scoring, and still lost by 32 points. They prevented the Hawks from surpassing their largest margin of victory of the season (36 points versus the Nets on Dec. 27).
“It was very important considering these last few ball games we are still playing for something,” Joe Johnson said of the fast start. “The starters came out and set the tone and the bench came in and maintained and went a little higher. That meant a lot. That means everybody was very focused and aware of what we need to accomplish.”
Mission accomplished on this night.