It didn't take another dust-up between coach Mike Woodson and Josh Smith to remind the Hawks of what's at stake in the final 19 games of the season.With 13 home games and six more road games between the team and the first round of the playoffs, Hawks captain Joe Johnson said the path has already been highlighted for his squad.
Handle the business at hand properly and the Hawks still have a chance to chase their goals. They can't stumble again as they did in New York on Wednesday and Charlotte on Friday.
"It's already done," Johnson said when asked if the Hawks had closed the locker room doors and had a chance to speak to each without interruption about what needs to be done going forward. "Every guy in here knows exactly what's at stake every time we hit that floor. It's no secret that we're not getting it done right now. We haven't played up to our capability, and that's on us."
Saturday's game kicked off a seven-game homestand that could make or break the Hawks' chances of landing the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"Our playoffs have already started," Johnson said. "We're just getting ready to get into the thick of it coming up."
The preparation actually started after the ugly loss to the Bobcats.
"We had a big meeting after the Charlotte game," Flip Murray said. "And everyone knows what we need to do for the rest of the season. We have one goal, and everyone is on the same page and it started with this win against a very good (Detroit) team."
HAWKS 87, PISTONS 83: All the Hawks were looking for was a win.
What they ended up with was a season-rejuvenating defeat of a longtime nemesis and their first season sweep of Detroit since the 1993-94 season.
The Hawks snapped a two-game losing streak with Saturday's win before a sellout crowd of 19,101 at Philips Arena, kicking off a critical seven-game homestand with a much-needed victory.
After losing back-to-back games to sub-.500 teams in New York on Wednesday and Charlotte on Friday, the Hawks couldn't afford to drop another one. Not with Miami and Detroit in hot pursuit for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, which guarantees its owner home-court advantage in the first round.
"This was huge for us because that (Pistons) team has been the standard bearer in the Eastern Conference since I've been in the league," Josh Smith said. "We needed this in the worst way for all sorts of reasons."
Smith needed it more than most. And he showed up in a major way the night after being benched in the second half in Charlotte for arguing with Hawks coach Mike Woodson.
He scored a team-high 19 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, blocked four shots and had two assists while also playing stellar defense against Rasheed Wallace.
"Josh Smith was huge," Woodson said. "And that's how he has to play. He has to play at that level every night the rest of the way, and he's capable of that."