AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Three weeks ago, the Atlanta Hawks found themselves in prime position for a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Seven losses later, the Hawks find themselves fighting for their post-season lives as they look to end their skid Friday night against the host Detroit Pistons. Atlanta struggled throughout its 114-97 defeat against Washington on Wednesday, but is facing a Detroit team that is going through its own share of struggles.
The Pistons have dropped three in a row and sit 2 1/2 games behind the Charlotte Bobcats for eighth place in the East, with the Hawks 3 1/2 games ahead. Detroit fell flat in back-to-back losses to the Bobcats this week, losing 108-96 Tuesday before falling 116-98 in Charlotte the following night. Thursday marks the third meeting of the season between the teams, with the Hawks sweeping a home-and-home set Nov. 20 and 22.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, SportSouth (Atlanta), FSN Detroit
ABOUT THE HAWKS (25-28): Injuries to Al Horford (torn pectoral), Gustavo Ayon (shoulder) and Pero Antic (ankle) left Atlanta with no choice but to start former No. 1 pick Elton Brand in the middle against the Wizards. For his part, the 34-year-old looked like his old self, racking up a season-high 20 points to go with 11 rebounds. With Ayon, Antic and forward DeMarre Carroll (hamstring) all still hurting, Brand may need to step into the starting role again versus Detroit - a tall task considering he played a season-high 35 minutes against Washington.
ABOUT THE PISTONS (22-32): Detroit isn't dealing with the same kind of injury woes as Friday's opponent, but will still be down a veteran point guard for the foreseeable future. Chauncey Billups has decided to undergo surgery to repair a meniscus injury in his right knee, and there's no timetable for his return. Billups' role in the Pistons' offense was by no means significant, but his absence will be felt on a team that has been leaning heavily on Brandon Jennings while not getting much from rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
1. Atlanta has won three straight meetings and eight of the last 10.
2. Brand didn't play in either of the Hawks' wins over Detroit earlier in the season.
3. Pistons F Josh Smith scored just 11 points in the two games against Atlanta, the city where he spent his first nine NBA seasons before bolting last offseason as a free agent.
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