Pistons Lose OT Crusher

Johnson’s tying triple forces OT in one Pistons let get away

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

- Joe Johnson had two points at halftime and was 1 of 8 from the field. He finished the game with 27 points and hit the biggest shot of the night - a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left that forced overtime. It ruined a strong overall performance from the Pistons, who got 22 points and 11 boards from Greg Monroe. The Pistons hadn't trailed since it was 7-4 and Brandon Knight tied the game on a 3-point shot, but a Zaza Pachulia put-back on the first possession gave Atlanta a lead it wouldn't lose in a 107-101 game. It was an excruciating way to open a stretch that sees the Pistons play five games in six nights, leaving them at 4-16 through the season's first 20 games.

BLUE COLLAR - One game after Austin Daye gave the Pistons' struggling offense an enormous lift with 18 second-quarter points, Jason Maxiell came off the bench to start the second quarter and dropped 12 points on the Atlanta Hawks, making 5 of 7 shots, as the Pistons, after mustering just 17 first-quarter points, put up 29 points in the quarter to take an 11-point lead over the Hawks, who came to The Palace with a 13-6 record. Maxiell didn't slow down much in the second half, either, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds. After the Hawks tied the game at 70, Maxiell responded with an offensive rebound, put-back and free throw. Maxiell had 16 points through three quarters but no rebounds, but when the game turned into a grind-it-out affair in the fourth quarter, he stuck his nose into the fray and plucked eight boards.

RED FLAG - The Pistons had a foul to give in the final seconds of the fourth quarter but never used it. Joe Johnson made them pay for that mistake by hitting a 3-point shot from the left wing over Rodney Stuckey's defense to send the game to overtime. Lawrence Frank instructed the Pistons to foul when they beat Portland last Saturday and were protecting a three-point lead in the final seconds, so even if the Pistons didn't have a foul to give before putting Atlanta in the bonus it would have been Frank's move. Tough way to lose. Chalk it up to another lesson for a team absorbing its share of them so far.

When the Pistons beat Portland at The Palace last week, Lawrence Frank ordered Brandon Knight to foul with the Pistons ahead by three points. It's a philosophy he's held since Chauncey Billups threw in a half-court bomb to force what became a three-overtime playoff game en route to the Pistons' 2004 NBA title, one of the epic games in Palace history.

Up three on a final possession Friday night, the Pistons failed to foul Joe Johnson. His triple over Rodney Stuckey forced overtime of a game the Pistons hadn't trailed since Knight's triple tied it at seven in the first quarter. When Zaza Pachulia scored on a put-back to start overtime, the Hawks would never trail, winning 107-101, about the worst way you could script the start of a stretch that sees the Pistons play five games in six nights, all in different cities.

"It's frustrating, but we've got a game tomorrow," Knight said. "That's the biggest thing in this league. You might be frustrated with one game, but there's nothing we can do to change that. We learn from it. We can see we're getting better as a team. As a unit, we're competing. We use what we learn in today's game and put it to use in tomorrow's game."

The Pistons controlled the game most of the night, leading by 11 at halftime, but the Hawks rallied to tie at 70 with nine minutes to play. One possession later, Jason Maxiell ripped down an offensive rebound, converted and added a foul shot to spark an 8-0 run. It looked like the Pistons were out of the woods when they still clung to a six-point lead with 40 seconds left. But a Marvin Williams triple cut it to three, then a Pistons turnover opened the door for Johnson's dagger that forced overtime.

It was the Williams triple that will haunt Frank's dreams.

"It goes back to this," he said. "We hit the bucket with 39 seconds to go, they're walking the ball up the court and we don't get matched up and we give Marvin Williams the three. So six becomes three. We had a foul to give; obviously, we wanted to foul; we didn't foul. We kicked the game. There's no doubt about it. It's a game we should have won; we didn't. It's very, very disappointing. It's yet another good performance that gets wasted, not in the win column."

The Pistons were staggered by Atlanta's comeback and really out of it almost before overtime started.

"I've been part of games where you have the game won, a team makes great shots and you've got to move on to the next thing,"