* PICK YOUR POISON: There was a time when the Detroit Pistons were the team that could beat --- inside and out --- with a lineup filled with All-Stars. But this is a different Pistons team now that Chauncey Billups has been traded to Denver for Allen Iverson, and second-year point guard Rodney Stuckey has moved into Billups' place in the starting unit.
It was the Hawks that presented the challenge Sunday afternoon, dishing out the balance the Pistons were known for in years past.
"They jumped right on us from the opening tip," Iverson said. "[Mike] Bibby really got them going. I left him in transition a couple of times, and he was able to knock down some 3-pointers to give them a big lead. They were knocking down shots and playing good defense.
"They were the better team today."
Iverson's move from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference has come with a little clarity about where exactly the strength of the league resides.
After years of playing little brother, the roles might be in the midst of switching, with up-and-coming teams like the Hawks
"The East is definitely stronger than most people think," Iverson said. "I knew that while I was out West with Denver. The Hawks are a good Basketball team with a lot of good players, and they play together."
* PERFECTION: The Pistons started the game on a tear, going 7-for-7 from the floor in the first five minutes with Rasheed Wallace (3-for-3), Iverson (3-for-3) and Rip Hamilton all making shots to push the Pistons to an early 15-9 lead.
They didn't miss a shot until there was 6:46 left in the quarter when Hamilton missed a 19-footer from the baseline to break the momentum.
Once the Hawks slowed them down, the game took a decidedly different turn in the home team's favor.
"I was concerned early," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said.
"They came out blazing and made some tough shots. We gave up three or four layups in that stretch. But when we started to pick it up offensively and then our defense got better as we went along."
* TOSSED AT THE END: Hamilton, an All-Star selection for the past three seasons, was ejected from the game with 1:14 to play for yelling at official Rodney Mott as he walked up the floor after being hit on the head by Bibby on an offensive possession.
Hamilton got tossed without even getting the obligatory two technical fouls. So whatever he said to Mott was bad enough that he was sent to the locker room a minute early.