AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Hawks almost stole one.
The Hawks nearly erased a 19-point deficit against the Pistons but came up a point short in an 85-84 loss Friday night at the Palace at Auburn Hills.
The Hawks went on an 18-2 fourth-quarter run to pull within one point, 83-82, with 3:13 remaining. Kyle Korver and Lou Williams hit 3-pointers to cap the run. The Pistons got a basket from Rodney Stuckey and the Hawks had a couple costly turnovers in the final minutes including one with 42.9 seconds remaining and still trailed by three points.
Al Horford then hit what was first ruled a 3-pointer with 5.6 seconds remaining that would have tied the game at 85-85. After a video review, the basket was changed to a 2-pointer.
It wasn’t over.
The Pistons turned the ball over as Jeff Teague intercepted a pass and the Hawks called timeout with 4.1 seconds remaining. The Pistons fouled Horford with 3.1 seconds left on the inbounds play and a Williams shot at the buzzer hit the side of the backboard after being blocked by Andre Drummond.
“We had drawn up one play and they had a foul to give,” Williams said. “The actual play that we drew up they fouled us on it. After that, me and Al kind of made eye contact just to do a dribble handoff. They had been cheating on our dribble handoff all game and I faked it to the corner. Al felt like both guys were going to go with me but they actually did a good job defensively.
“No idea (if the final shot was blocked). I was just trying to get it toward the rim. I figured the clock was down at that point and I just wanted to get a shot toward that would count if it went in.”
It was the Hawks who lost a 22-point lead but ended up with a double-overtime win over the Pistons on Dec. 26 at Philips Arena.
The Pistons would nearly relinquish their big advantage.
“It’s tough to digest,” Horford said. “I’m proud of the guys for fighting. We could have easily have folded and focused on tomorrow but this is a different Hawks team. We are still learning. There are things we have to clean up. We didn’t play very well the first half. You can’t spot a team 19 points, especially on the road. It’s just too hard to recover. The fact that we were even in the game was amazing.”
Horford said he thought he was behind the 3-point line on the potential game-tying shot. Although it was not the designed play, Horford was trying to give Teague an option as the shot clock wound down.
The Hawks (20-11), third in the Eastern Conference, lost for the second time in seven games. They had erased a 14-point deficit for a win over the Pacers earlier this season.
Horford led the Hawks with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Josh Smith added 20 points, Williams had 17 and Korver 10.
The Hawks did not have a field goal from a bench player through three quarters, not getting a basket until Zaza Pachulia scored early in the fourth.
“It was day and night honestly,” Pachulia said of the difference between the first three and final quarter. “That’s how I felt at least. Both ends of the floor, we were more aggressive, doing a better job on the pick-and-roll and communicating. Offensively, we were moving the ball. The first half, maybe one pass and that was it. We weren’t running it. We weren’t hitting our spots. I don’t know if we were playing basketball. I didn’t feel right. That’s not us. The fourth quarter, that was beautiful.
The Pistons (13-22) won their fourth straight. They have won six of their past seven games with the only loss in the stretch coming against the Hawks. Austin Daye led the Pistons with 20 points, 16 coming in the second quarter. Greg Monroe added 18 points.
The Pistons enjoyed the 19-point lead in the third quarter. The Hawks managed to cut into the deficit. The trailed by 11 points, 66-55, after three straight 3-pointers.
“You dig yourselves a hole and it’s tough to overcome, particularly on the road,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said.
The Pistons led by as many as 18 points in the second quarter and held a 51-36 halftime advantage. After the Hawks had cut a 14-point deficit to nine points early in the quarter, the Pistons went on a 13-4 run to increase their lead.
The Hawks shot just 31.6 percent (6 of 19) in the second quarter. By intermission, Smith (14) and Horford (10) accounted for two-thirds of the Hawks’ offense.
In fact, the duo combined for all of the Hawks’ 20 first-quarter points. They combined to shoot 9 of 13 while the rest of the team went 0 of 7. Another Hawk didn’t score a point until a free throw by Ivan Johnson with 9:27 remaining in the second quarter.
Smith aggravated his right hip flexor and played only 12 minutes in the second half.
The Hawks return home to host the Celtics Saturday.
- Chris Vivlamore
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