Third-quarter surge defeats Hawks

ATLANTA - The Detroit Pistons are playing like a dominant team, even when the final score is deceptively close.

The Pistons led by 26 after a lopsided third quarter and coasted to their fourth straight victory, beating the Atlanta Hawks 106-95 on Tuesday night.

The Pistons won with balance, with seven players scoring in double figures, led by Tayshaun Prince's 23.

'It was good, man,' said Chauncey Billups, who had 10 points and 10 assists. 'We got a lot of guys rolling.'

Detroit won with a strong inside presence, taking a 10-0 advantage in offensive rebounds in the first half.

'I was really impressed with the job we did on the glass,' said Pistons coach Flip Saunders, adding he considered offensive rebounds 'the Hawks' forte.'

The Pistons also won with defense, blocking 10 shots and shutting down the Hawks' top scorer, Joe Johnson, who had only five points. Johnson's scoring average dropped a full point from 21.7 to 20.7. It was the low total for Johnson since he had five at Memphis on April 2, 2006.

Johnson called the Pistons 'a great team' but added he also had a bad game.

'I'll give them credit, maybe a little bit of both,' Johnson said. 'It's just tough fighting against double teams.'

The Hawks couldn't come close to matching the Pistons' scoring depth. When Johnson was shut down, the Hawks had no backup plan. Josh Smith was held to 13 points, four below his average.

'Our main core guys, they just didn't have it tonight,' Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. 'There are nights like that in the NBA. I just hope we don't have many more nights like that.'

Saunders credited Richard Hamilton with leading the defensive effort on Johnson.

'Rip has done a pretty good job on some people lately,' Saunders said.

Johnson and Smith sat out the fourth quarter.

The Pistons put away the game by outscoring the Hawks 30-13 in the third quarter after leading 57-48 at halftime.

'They were able to make defensive stops and get out and push the ball and get easy shots,' Smith said. They knocked down all their shots.'

The Pistons made 11 of 14 shots from the field and were 6-of-6 on free throws in the third quarter.

'They hit us tonight,' Woodson said.

'If they hit you, you've got to hit back, and I don't think we did a good job with that.'

Billups made two free throws with 1.4 seconds left in the third period, giving Detroit an 87-61 lead with a full period left.

The Philips Arena scoreboard, perhaps unable to keep up, was blank for the start of the final quarter.

At one point in the third quarter the posted score was Hawks 75, Pistons 0. That fiction was as close as the Hawks came to holding a lead.

Atlanta native and former University of Georgia star Jarvis Hayes had 17 points in 17 minutes for Detroit. Hamilton had 14 and Jason Maxiell added 13.

The Pistons' average margin of victory in the first three wins of their streak was 28 points. They led the Hawks by 28 before turning the game over to his reserves.

'It's good to be able to rest guys in a game like this,' Saunders said.

Josh Childress, who paced Atlanta with 18 points, led a mini-comeback in the final quarter, when both teams relied heavily on reserves.

Salim Stoudamire had 15 points, all in the fourth quarter. Rookie point guard Acie Law, in his second game back from an ankle injury, and Marvin Williams each had 11 points.