for this game

Hawks surge back late, sweep season series with Pistons

Mar 8, 2009 - 5:26 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- With a tenuous hold on home-court advantage in the first round on the line, the Atlanta Hawks came up big.

The Hawks snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday night, holding off the Detroit Pistons to sweep the season series with an 87-83 victory.

"It's huge. Everybody is right there racing for that fourth spot," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "For us to come in and handle our business is huge for our basketball team. But we can't stop here."

Atlanta came into the game with a half-game lead on the Miami Heat for the No. 4 slot in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. The Pistons, winners of four straight coming in, had even begun to climb back into the discussion.

"Our guys responded tonight," Woodson said. "From beginning to end, it was like a playoff game."

But the Hawks finally snapped out of their March funk, coming up with some big buckets over the last four minutes to hold on for the victory. Richard Hamilton buried back-to-back 3-pointers late in the fourth to pull the Pistons even at 78-78. They seemed to be on the verge of stealing the momentum completely, as Antonio McDyess stuffed Al Horford on the other end.

However, Rodney Stuckey missed a layup and the Hawks took advantage moments later as Horford - leaving little room for error - went up strong for a dunk to put his club back on top.

"We made some mistakes down the stretch. Those mistakes kind of put our backs against the wall tonight," Hamilton said. "Our turnovers were glaring tonight, and I think it was the difference in the game."

Horford swiped Hamilton on the other end and found Flip Murray for a long jumper to extend the lead to four.

"We played hard, but we just didn't execute when we needed to," Stuckey said. "I still think we'll be fine if we see these guys in the playoffs. We lost this game on mistakes tonight."

Fittingly enough, it was embattled Atlanta forward Josh Smith who buried perhaps the biggest shot of the fourth quarter. Smith was benched for the second half of Friday's loss to the Charlotte Bobcats after a heated run-in with Woodson, but was back in the starting lineup for this one.

With 1:22 remaining and Atlanta nursing a four-point edge against the Pistons, he drained a 19-footer to push the lead to six as the Hawks held on.

"He was huge and that's how he has to play," Woodson said. "He has to play at that level every night the rest of the way, and he's capable of that. And he has to have the support around him."

Smith finished with 19 points, 12 boards and four blocks, while Horford added 18 and 12.

"Every team hits rock bottom. I think last night, that was how it was," Horford sad. "I've been on a team like that with Florida. Before our first championship, we had an ugly scene. We ended up doing good and winning a championship."

Hamilton led the Pistons with 20 and Stuckey chipped in 19.