Josh Smith is doing all he can to help the Atlanta Hawks land homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs and will get back to work tonight against the improving Detroit Pistons at Philips Arena.
Smith is averaging 23.4 points in his last 22 games, and along with teammate Joe Johnson, is giving Atlanta a formidable 1-2 punch at the right time. Smith had 24 points and nine rebounds in Wednesday's 120-93 victory over Charlotte and is already focused on doing some damage in the playoffs.
"We're playing for something and we have to keep focused," remarked Smith, who helped the Hawks tie a season high by shooting 56.6 percent from the field. "We can't have any let downs. With 13 or 14 games left in the season, we've got to finish out strong going into the playoffs."
Jeff Teague and Willie Green scored 17 points apiece, while Johnson had 16 points and Marvin Williams chipped in 14 in a reserve role. The Hawks are fifth in the Eastern Conference -- 1 1/2 games behind No. 3 Indiana -- and have won eight of the last 12 games. They are 18-11 as the host.
After entertaining the Pistons, Atlanta will leave the Peach State for three games against Charlotte, Boston and Orlando. Meanwhile, Johnson is posting 22.0 ppg in his last 16 games.
Detroit completed a perfect three-game homestand with last night's 99-94 victory over the Washington Wizards and welcomed back guard Rodney Stuckey after a three-game absence due to a hamstring injury.
Stuckey scored 15 points off the bench in 18:46 on the floor, while Greg Monroe led the charge with 18 and seven rebounds. Tayshaun Prince and Ben Gordon netted 14 and 13 points, respectively, for the Pistons, who have prevailed in five of their last six games since a five-game slide.
"Every game we should expect to win, regardless of who they have," said Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank. "I don't care if they have four All-Stars or no All-Stars. We expect to win."
The Pistons will begin a four-game road trip tonight against the Hawks, Heat, Magic and Bobcats, and have lost nine of the past 12 games away from The Palace of Auburn Hills. Detroit is only 6-21 as the guest this season.
Detroit and Atlanta have split a pair of meetings this season -- both at The Palace. The Pistons are winless in six straight visits to Philips Arena.