Hawks tune up for playoffs, rout Pistons 116-84
By PAUL NEWBERRY
ATLANTA (AP) This was just what the Atlanta Hawks needed as they geared up for the playoffs: a chance to give the starters plenty of rest, while the backups put on quite a show.
Tracy McGrady led six players in double figures and the Hawks, with perhaps their most impressive showing of the season, built a 37-point lead in the first half on the way to a 116-84 rout of the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
"That was a lot of fun," center Jason Collins said.
Indeed it was, at least for the home team.
With their highest-scoring half of the season, the Hawks were up 72-42 at the break in the first of five straight home games to close the regular season. Atlanta is battling with Boston and Orlando to be the final Eastern Conference team with home-court advantage.
The Hawks sure played like it mattered in this one, getting contributions from everyone in what was essentially a mirror image of the 116-77 beatdown that the Pistons handed Cleveland the previous night. Detroit had nothing left for the Hawks, who got a season-best 72 points from their bench.
"We really wanted to come out with a lot of energy," Collins said. "We want to finish the season strong with the last five games on our home court. We've still got a lot to play for."
McGrady scored a season-high 17 points, flipping a wristband into the crowd as he walked off the court to a big cheer in the fourth quarter. Ivan Johnson added 16 points, Joe Johnson had 13, Josh Smith chipped in 12, while Marvin Williams and Willie Green scored 10 apiece. Jannero Pargo had nine points and eight assists, setting up numerous dunks and easy baskets.
The Hawks led by as many as 41 points but couldn't quite hold on for its biggest win of the season, which remained a 36-point blowout at New Jersey in late December.
But Atlanta couldn't have scripted it much better at this point in the season, a laugher of a game that essentially gave the starters a night off with a grueling season winding down and the most important games still to come. Joe Johnson played more than any of the starters, less than 23 minutes, and Jeff Teague was the only other one to go as many as 20 minutes.
"We ask a lot of those guys," Green said. "When we come in the game, it's up to us to continue their level of play or even pick it up a notch."
Detroit, which shot a dismal 35 percent (32 of 92), was led by Greg Monroe's 17 points. It was hard for coach Lawrence Frank to take, especially with the Pistons coming off one of the most lopsided wins in the league this season.
"One day you play like a king, the next day you don't," Frank said.
The Hawks led 39-20 at the end of the first quarter and really turned it on in the second, even with the entire starting lineup watching it all from the bench. Williams scored eight points, McGrady had six, Pargo and Green five apiece, and Ivan Johnson four - including a rim-shaking, left-handed slam. Jerry Stackhouse and Vladimir Radmanovic also knocked down shots, meaning every available Atlanta player was on the score sheet by halftime.
Once things got out of hand, it was nothing more than a dunkfest for Atlanta. Pargo orchestrated three slams in the second quarter, and his most impressive play might've been one that he didn't even earn an assist. Dribbling under the basket to get from one side of the court to the other, he lured most of the Pistons defense before flipping a pass to Green, who quickly whipped it back over to Williams all alone under the basket for the dunk.
The Hawks didn't even mind when McGrady was called for goaltending, leaping up to pick up off a jumper that was clearly on its way down. The starters got a good chuckle from that one as they watched from the bench.
Atlanta shot a season-high 62 percent from the field (28 of 45) in the first half.
"We were two different teams," Detroit's Walker Russell said, referring to the previous night. "I don't want to blame the back-to-back because we're supposed to come out and be competitive every night. But sometimes it just happens. They came out and really put it to us."
Notes: The Pistons rested F Tayshaun Prince while in the midst of three games in three nights. Austin Daye started in his place but scored just four points on 1-of-11 shooting. Frank wanted to shake up his rotation a bit with the season winding down, but he insisted the changes had nothing to do with the poor performance. "No excuse. This has nothing to do with experimentation." ... The Hawks played without C Erick Dampier, who was sidelined by a strained left calf. ... The Hawks are still listing C Zaza Pachulia (sprained foot) as day to day, but coach Larry Drew revealed a bit of concern when asked if the rugged player would be back for the playoffs. "I hope so," Drew said.
Updated April 18, 2012