Pistons' rally falls short, win streak ends at 7
Auburn Hills — Basketball excitement returned to the Palace Friday, as the biggest crowd in some time came out to see what the fuss over the Pistons' seven-game winning streak was about.
The Pistons' seven-game streak came to an end, but they gave the 18,859 fans a gutty effort, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's wing 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with 1.2 seconds left came up short, and the Eastern Conference leading Atlanta Hawks escaped from the Palace with a 106-103 win, their 21st victory in 23 games.
Greg Monroe and Al Horfor had tipped an inbounds pass out of bounds just prior to the final shot, Monroe barely knocking it off Horford, prompting an official's review that took nearly three minutes to determine it would be Pistons' ball.
The execution that's characterized the Pistons during their improbable streak wasn't present, but they showed some fight after falling behind by 23 in the second quarter.
Tired legs seemed to catch up with the Pistons in their third game in four nights. They tried valiantly after falling behind, but Caldwell-Pope (20 points) couldn't hit much for most of the night. He kept shooting anyway, putting up 16 of the Pistons' franchise-record 43 3-point attempts, and missing 12 of them.
He missed eight of his first nine 3-pointers, but made three in the fourth quarter, including one to cut the Hawks lead to 105-101 with 1:02 remaining.
"Yeah, some of them were really bad, too," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said of Caldwell-Pope's shot selection. "He hit some big ones down the stretch, he's certainly not afraid. The game's not over, play it to the end."
The Hawks kept giving the Pistons — and their crowd — life by missing free throws, but the Pistons couldn't muster any consistent offense, hitting just 40 percent from the field.
The Pistons didn't turn the ball over much (eight) and held the Hawks to 41 percent in the second half, during which they outscored the Hawks 58-42. Anthony Tolliver and Kyle Singler gave them an unexpected lift, with Tolliver scoring 15 and Singler 16, each hitting three 3-pointers.
The hole was deep, though. The Pistons trailed by 13 in the first and it was 61-38 late in the second.
The Hawks displayed flawless execution early, hitting eight 3-pointers and shooting 56 percent in the first half, while tired legs and lack of energy showed for the Pistons.
"We were just walking around. We didn't play hard on defense," Van Gundy said. "I was disappointed in our lack of energy. Playing the way we were, we just looked flat and I don't have an explanation for it."
Jeff Teague had 14 points on just nine shot attempts and 11 assists, while backcourt mate Kyle Korver hit all three of his 3-pointers to score 11.
The Hawks moved the ball with precision, as five players scored in double figures.
Andre Drummond, who emerged as a consistent force during the winning streak, appeared to be battling a head cold he caught in Dallas and was ineffective. Horford took advantage with 19 points and 16 rebounds. Drummond didn't play after the middle of the third quarter, finishing with just four points and five rebounds in 17 minutes.
"He was sick this morning at the walkthrough," Van Gundy said. "He tried to play, he had no energy at all in the first half. At halftime he said he could go but he couldn't get up and down the floor.
On one possession in the third, Horford missed a close jumper, got his own rebound and drove around Drummond for a reverse layup. Van Gundy removed Drummond for veteran Joel Anthony on the next stoppage of play and Drummond never returned.
The substitution led to a third quarter surge from the Pistons, as Brandon Jennings found some life and Singler hit a couple 3-pointers, but Horford quickly restored order, calmly knocking down a jumper and getting a dunk, scoring 11 in the quarter as the lead went back to 15.
The Pistons didn't fold, but neither did the Hawks.