for this game

Smith back in Detroit when Rockets challenge Pistons

Jan 31, 2015 - 2:57 PM ( - Josh Smith will make his return to The Palace of Auburn Hills Saturday night when his new team, the Houston Rockets, take on his old team, the Detroit Pistons.

The Pistons shocked the NBA when they released the forward on Dec. 22. Smith had two years and almost $26 million left on his contract when the Pistons let him walk.

After Smith's release, the Pistons won seven in a row to creep back in the conversation in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Since that streak, Detroit crashed back to Earth a bit with a 5-7 mark, which includes a four- game losing streak.

Smith played his first game with the Rockets on Dec. 26 and the team is 12-7 since his acquisition.

"I'm excited," Smith said. "It's another opportunity to come out and get another win, especially against an old team. They're just friends. I don't have anything to prove. I think I've proven everything in a body of work of me being in this league. This is my 11th year so I don't really have anything to prove."

His old team isn't sure what to expect.

"I don't know Josh's mindset," said Stan Van Gundy, the head coach and president of basketball operations for the Pistons. "I'm sure he'll want to come back and play well. I think almost everybody does when they come back and play against their old teams."

Smith's current team is in much better shape than his old one.

The Rockets won their fourth straight Friday night in a 93-87 road victory over the Boston Celtics.

In the absence of Dwight Howard, Donatas Motiejunas had a career night to keep the Rockets' winning streak alive. Motiejunas scored a career-high 26 points with 12 rebounds to lead the Rockets.

Howard missed his third straight game with a knee injury. The team revealed earlier in the week that Howard is suffering from edema in the knee caused by fluid build-up in body tissues.

Smith deposited 15 points and James Harden added 14 with seven assists and six rebounds for Houston.

Detroit's postseason chances were hurt when point guard Brandon Jennings went down for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. During this slide, the Pistons lost three of four on the road.

On Wednesday, the Pistons fell to the Philadelphia 76ers, 89-69, which represented a season-low in points by 10. The 79-point display came on opening night.

Holding a 6-4 lead, the Sixers went on a 22-4 run to take control. The Pistons missed 12 straight shots during the stretch that resulted in a 28-8 margin.

"Obviously, it was very difficult. We weren't ready to play. I don't think I've ever coached a game where one team's effort was that much better than my team's effort," Van Gundy said of his team's start.

Greg Monroe ended with 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons. Jodie Meeks had 19 points on 4-of-16 shooting against his former team, while Jonas Jerebko was the only other Detroit player in double figures with 10.

The Rockets have won seven in a row against the Pistons and three straight in Motown.