Following a pair of discouraging home defeats, Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew believes this a perfect time for his team to go on the road.
Drew’s outlook could quickly change.
The Hawks open a difficult seven-game road trip Monday night against the Detroit Pistons, who have won 10 of the last 11 meetings between the teams at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Atlanta (33-20) embarks on its longest road trip of the season following Saturday’s 88-86 loss to Charlotte on Stephen Jackson’s last-second jumper. The Hawks appeared in complete control, leading by 22 points late in the second quarter, but shot just 29.3 percent after halftime.
Although it was an ugly way to lose, Atlanta received an encouraging performance from Al Horford. The two-time All-Star center finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds in a team-high 42 minutes after missing two games with a lower back contusion.
The defeat to the Bobcats came four days after Atlanta suffered an embarrassing 117-83 loss to Philadelphia, snapping a three-game winning streak.
“Hopefully we can go out on the road and get well,” Drew said. “I told them it’s a great time to go out on the road.”
Atlanta has won seven of its last nine games away from Philips Arena, but continuing that success on this trip won’t be easy. The two-week trek includes stops in New York, Phoenix, Golden State, Portland, Denver and Los Angeles to face the Lakers.
One of the few non-contenders the Hawks will visit is Detroit (20-35), a place where they typically have trouble.
Atlanta lost 103-80 at The Palace on Dec. 14, its third straight defeat there. Josh Smith led the Hawks with 26 points and Horford added 17, but Atlanta’s bench was outscored 46-14.
However, the Pistons have now dropped three straight home games and five of their last six, including consecutive losses to open a season-high five-game homestand. They were tied with Portland with just over 1 minute remaining Sunday, but committed two costly turnovers down the stretch and wound up losing 105-100.
Detroit coach John Kuester stayed with his reserves throughout the fourth quarter, and they kept his club in the game. Ben Gordon had a team-high 18 points off the bench, while backup point guard Will Bynum added 15. The Pistons, whose bench ranks second in the league with 38.8 points per game, saw their reserves outscore their starters 57-43.
“Our second unit played with a great sense of urgency,” Kuester said. “Tracy (McGrady) did some good things for us, but we needed the rest of the first group to play with that kind of urgency.”
McGrady finished with 16 points and shot 6 of 12 from the field. He’d averaged 7.7 points on 33.3-percent shooting in his previous three games.
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