Detroit Pistons

Pistons’ loss at Atlanta offers light, illuminates topsy-turvy season

ATLANTA — If you need a cliffs notes version of how the Detroit Pistons’ season is going, just catch a replay of Friday night’s game.

It had a little bit of everything — low-scoring quarters, poor shooting from the perimeter, breakdowns defensively and a late run that ultimately fell short.

Oh, and the free-falling Pistons fell five games below .500 in a 105-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks before a sellout-crowd of 19,009 at Philips Arena, their seventh time on the losing end in their last eight games.

“There were two main differences, and then a lot of little things,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy summarized afterward. “Eighteen turnovers, some really, really questionable offensive decisions, and Kyle Korver.”

Detroit (15-20) struggled to handle Korver, Atlanta’s sharp-shooting guard who came off the bench to score 22 points. Half of those points came in a 32-point second quarter that saw Atlanta take a 10-point lead at halftime.

This after both teams struggled to hit the broad side of a barn in the first quarter, combining to play to a 19-19 tie. The Pistons were playing without starting forward Marcus Morris, who sat out with left knee pain, and started 0 for 11 from the 3-point line.

“Some of it was shot selection,” said Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who scored 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting, including 2 of 8 from 3.

“I mean, we had some tough shots but yeah, they wasn’t going in. They had great contests and some of them were just bad shots.”

After Atlanta outscored them by 10 in the second quarter, the Pistons came out in the second half a step slow. The Hawks scored seven straight and opened up a 17-point lead against a Detroit team fractured in recent weeks.

But rather than curl up and play dead, the Pistons responded — opening the fourth quarter on a 7-2 run to pull within single digits, then a Reggie Jackson layup with 4:16 to go cut it to four.

Jackson, who scored 20 points and eight assists, led the charge in Detroit’s 36-point fourth. The Pistons were never able to get any closer, with Atlanta scoring on its final six possessions, getting key baskets from Dwight Howard (10 points, 15 rebounds) and Paul Millsap, who hurt the Pistons all night with a game-high 26.

“We did have a lot more fight in us tonight,” Van Gundy said. “Now, we should have never gotten down 17. I can’t excuse the way we started the third quarter; it was the same as the other night. But we didn’t let it go, we fought right to the end, got a little better spirit. Little better fight and enthusiasm.

“If we continue with that, and hopefully we play better at the offensive end of the floor, then we’ve got a chance to move forward.”

With Morris out, the Pistons relied solely Friday on an eight-man rotation. That meant extended minutes for all five starters (Caldwell-Pope and Tobias Harris, Morris’ replacement, played 38-plus minutes), along with Ish Smith and Stanley Johnson off the bench.

The Hawks shot 44 percent and converted on four more baskets than Detroit, which shot 9 of 31 from the 3-point line.

Asked afterward about the game, Jackson peered at the box score and proceeded to list off Atlanta’s quarter-by-quarter point total.

“Through the first quarter, we held them to 19,” Jackson said. “The second, 32. The third, 23. The fourth quarter, 31.

“It was up and down. Been a rollercoaster throughout the season.”

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