DETROIT - The last game before the All-Star break may have been a preview of how some of the Hawks' remaining games could look.
The starting lineup Atlanta rolled out in Detroit had the appearance of a franchise improving its lottery chances. Then, a bunch of hungry young players stepped up.
With Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder sitting this one out, and Ersan Ilyasova out of sight, the Hawks fell behind by 30 points to Detroit in the third quarter. The Pistons then eased up but Atlanta's kiddie corps had no desire to hurry to the airport and get the layoff started.
The Hawks outscored the Pistons 54-30 in the last 16 minutes and got as close as four points in a 104-98 loss at Little Caesars Arena.
"You've got heart. So come and play," center Dewayne Dedmon said. "We're not going to lay down and give up. We're going to fight for 48, so it was good to see."
The Hawks beat the Pistons 118-115 at home on Sunday with Bazemore, Schroder and Ilyasova combining for 52 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists and six steals. Bazemore's absence was attributed to rest, while Schroder has felt some tightness in his back the last 7-10 days, according to coach Mike Budenholzer. Ilyasova tweaked his shoulder on Tuesday.
The Hawks started two rookies, two second-year players and Dedmon, who is in his fifth season.
"Really, in the first half, we were playing decent, we just couldn't get a shot to go in," Budenholzer said. "Lot of good looks, a few breaks didn't go our way. The third quarter, it looked like it might just get away. Credit to our character and spirit of our group and the competitiveness of our group that they fight back to a four- or six-point game."
The Hawks will be one of several teams angling for position at the bottom of the league standings to skim the cream of a highly-rated draft class. But right now there’s an opportunity for the players here.
"We all have the desire to get better," said Taurean Prince, who scored 11 fourth-quarter points. "We all are getting better game-by-game. It's just an opportunity for a lot of us to become the players that we want to be."