78 - 85 Final
  for this game

Bibby catches fire, leads Hawks over Pistons

Dec 21, 2008 - 11:07 PM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The Atlanta Hawks have had trouble with the Detroit Pistons in the past - that is, before they had a potent 3-point threat in guard Mike Bibby.

Bibby scored 27 points and finished a perfect 6-of-6 from 3-point range and Joe Johnson poured in 19, leading the Hawks to an 85-78 victory over the Detroit Pistons on a rare Sunday afternoon game at Philips Arena.

Al Horford recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds and Josh Smith also scored 11 for Atlanta, which won for just the second time in 10 games against the team from the suburbs of the "Motor City."

"We've struggled against the Detroit the last couple of years," Johnson said. "To be able to get a win says a lot. It says that we are growing as a team, and that we trust one another."

Rodney Stuckey and Rasheed Wallace added 20 each for the Pistons, who dropped their second game in a row.

"The only thing we didn't do well was defend Mike Bibby," Pistons coach Michael Curry said. "He was able to float and get open and knock down six 3-pointers."

Just like against many of the elite teams in the league, the Hawks struggled against the Pistons during their barren eight-year playoff drought, which finally ended last season after a 37-45 campaign. Detroit in particular had Atlanta's number, sweeping all four games of last year's set, and entered this one winning of eight of 10 at Philips Arena.

However, this year has been markedly different for Atlanta.

Yearning to become one of the NBA's elite teams, the young Hawks have taken the task of holding serve on their home court seriously, losing just twice here in 12 games coming into the day.

Bibby and the Hawks were not about to let history stand in the way of home win No. 11.

"We're not worried about anything (in the past)," Bibby said. "We're trying to turn over a new leaf and get as many wins as we can."

Wallace cut Atlanta's lead to four late in the fourth, draining a jumper with 2:28 remaining before the Hawks finally regained control - albeit with a little bit of controversy.

Bibby buried a 22-footer to extend the lead to 82-76 on the ensuing possession before Richard Hamilton drove to the lane for the layup. Bibby's elbow clipped the back of Hamilton's head as the Detroit guard fell to the floor and Atlanta seized possession.

"When I went into my move, I don't know if (Bibby) elbowed me in the head," Hamilton said. "I felt a collision on the side of my head."

As Hamilton writhed in pain on the opposite end, Detroit fouled Smith. Walking toward the Pistons' sideline, a livid Hamilton said, "You guys are (expletive) terrible" to referee Rodney Mott and was ejected with 74 seconds remaining.

"I didn't deserve to get thrown out of the game for that," Hamilton said. "There's a lot of worse stuff that is said on the floor."

After Bibby missed the technical free throw and Smith split a pair from the foul line to establish a seven-point cushion, Stuckey drained a long bucket with 63 seconds remaining to cut the Pistons' deficit to five.

But Johnson nailed two free throws to secure Atlanta's win, the club's fifth in its last six games following a three-game skid.

"We're trying to be one of the good teams in the East," Johnson said. "That's something that you have to do, take care of home court."

The Hawks took control in the second quarter as Bibby caught fire from the arc. He opened up the period with back-to-back 3-pointers to ignite a 16-4 run - including 13 straight points - to turn a three-point deficit into a 38-29 advantage.

Atlanta's point guard finished with five from behind the arc in the frame, two shy of the franchise mark set by Henry James and Steve Smith in the 1996-97 campaign.

"The first (3-point) shot that I took didn't feel good, but it went in," Bibby said. "So that's usually a good indication that the shots you take are going to go in. Guys were finding me."

Atlanta entered the break with an 11-point bulge, which quickly expanded to 18 as the Hawks scored seven points to open the second half. But the Pistons clawed back into it, closing the third quarter with a 9-1 run to go into the final frame with a bit of momentum.

However, Atlanta's defense clamped down and wouldn't let the lead get away.

"We had to man up," Wallace said of overcoming the large deficit. "Nothing special, nothing new, nothing different. We cut it to four, but we just couldn't get it over the hump."

All-Star guard Allen Iverson sat out most of the last five minutes of the contest after he appeared to injure his left hand in a scramble for a loose ball. He had a roundly ineffective night anyway, finishing with just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting.