Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks were struggling late against the winless Detroit Pistons. In a season where the Hawks' hero of the game seems to change as frequently as the women in Charlie Sheen's love troubled life, it was Josh Smith's turn to shine.
Smith grabbed a pair of rebounds, found Al Horford twice and scored a pair of buckets to help the Hawks score 18 of the game's last 22 points in Atlanta's 94-85 win over the lowly Pistons on Wednesday night at Philips Arena. Horford had 18 points and eight boards and Johnson poured in 14 and dished eight assists for the Hawks, who improved to 5-0 to start the year for the second time in three years.
The Hawks struggled to dispatch of the an inferior Pistons team that was without star Richard Hamilton (sore right hamstring). And they had plenty of excuses to just pack it in. They were missing two key cogs of their bench with Jamal Crawford (turf toe) and Mo Evans (right knee). They were playing on the back end of a back-to-back and their top scorer, Johnson connected on just 5-of-15 shots.
That old Hawks team of a few years ago may have packed it in when Tayshaun Prince's 3-pointer sailed through the net to give Detroit a 81-76 lead with 6:13 left in this one. But there's no quit in this deep Hawks team, who turned to the guy who is (falsely) rumored to be traded at some point this year to send the fans at the Highlight Factory home happy.
Zaza Pachulia cut the deficit to three with a reverse layup with 5:38 left before Smith went to work. He forced a jump ball with rookie Greg Monroe. He grabbed a pair of rebounds and he found Horford in just the right spots on the floor. Smith, who finished with 22 points and 11 boards, capped this one with 41.3 left, taking the alley-oop pass from Mike Bibby to post a layup and give Hawks to a 91-83 lead. Johnson followed with a 3-pointer with 15.1 ticks left before Prince ended the game with Detroit's second field goal in the last six minutes. Another day, another win for the first place Hawks.
Ben Gordon had 22 points and Prince added 17 for the 0-5 Pistons, who have dropped five-straight at Philips Arena.