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Smith comes up big to pace Hawks

Jan 13, 2007 - 4:38 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Josh Smith's early return paid big dividends for the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith hit a clutch 3-pointer with 10.7 seconds left to lead the Hawks to a 99-93 triumph over the slumping Detroit Pistons.

With Atlanta leading 96-93, Smith, who returned early after missing eight games due to hernia surgery, blocked Flip Murray's layup with 43 seconds to play. He then drilled his shot from the arc to seal things.

"I was thinking, if they help out off (Johnson), if we swing it, I was going to shoot it," Smith said. "I'm going to knock it down. Joe (Johnson) had confidence in me and I had confidence in myself. When I released it, it felt good."

"He's a big part of what we do in Atlanta as far as the Atlanta Hawks are concerned," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "To get him back is huge. He really speeds the game up for us on both ends of the floor, in terms of offense, and he made some plays defensively and rebounded the ball for us. We're a faster team when he's out there. It was nice to see him back."

Joe Johnson scored 34 points for Atlanta, which won for just the second time in 12 games. Johnson also pointed to the return of Smith.

"It was definitely big getting Josh back," Johnson said. "He does the little things that don't show up in the stat sheet. He made his first shot and he made his last shot. The last shot was the biggest shot of the game."

"Joe (Johnson) was unbelievable," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "He didn't miss a shot until the fourth, and we just struggled at times from the standpoint of consistency and we had some bonehead plays down the stretch."

The Hawks led by as many 11 points following Johnson's jumper with 9:15 to play, but the Pistons reeled off a 7-0 spurt to close to 84-80 on Tayshaun Prince's dunk with 7:07 remaining.

Reserve Josh Childress added 18 points for Atlanta, which shot 50 percent (37-of-74) from the field, including 9-of-19 from 3-point range.

"It was a tremendous breath of fresh air for our team getting (Smith) back," Childress said. "He does all the little things, getting rebounds, getting tips, getting to the ball. It was just fun to play."

Richard Hamilton scored 32 points and Rasheed Wallace contributed 17 for the struggling Pistons, who lost for the sixth time in eight games. Their last two losses have come against Atlanta and Charlotte - two teams with a combined record of 22-46.

Detroit played its sixth consecutive game without 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups, who is sidelined with a strained right calf. The Pistons fell to 2-4 without their starting point guard in the lineup.

"We made some runs to get back into the game, and we responded well, but once again, it shows you that we don't have our floor general (Billups) in it to control the tempo for us down the stretch," Prince said.

"I just think that if you come out to a slow start against teams like this, then you have to play perfect down the stretch. And we made plays in the fourth quarter and did what we were supposed to do, but once again, when you get down 15 points early, it comes back to haunt you."

The Hawks used an 11-6 run over the final 3:55 of the third quarter to open a 77-68 lead.

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