ATLANTA — Paul Millsap, signed in the offseason to replace Josh Smith, had 19 points to steal the spotlight in Smith’s return to Atlanta, leading the Hawks to a 93-85 win over the Detroit Pistons today.
Smith, who signed with Detroit after nine seasons with the Hawks, had 11 points while shooting 5 of 15 from the field.
The Hawks pulled away after leading 66-64 through three quarters. Jeff Teague scored 18 points and DeMarre Carroll had 11 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks was ejected with 2:36 remaining after complaining to an official during a timeout.
Brandon Jennings led Detroit with 21 points. Rodney Stuckey had 18 before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Millsap started after missing the Hawks’ loss at Miami on Tuesday night with a sore right elbow.
There was a mixed response for Smith in pregame introductions but only applause following a “Thanks Josh Smith” message on the video board during the first timeout.
Smith called his return to Atlanta “kind of a surreal moment” before the game. He acknowledged this was not just another game.
“My teammates know how important the game is to me, so I’m going to be able to stay within my comfort zone and play my game,” he said.
Asked before the game what he has missed about his Atlanta hometown, Smith said: “My house. And my mother’s home cooking.”
Smith missed a jump hook on the Pistons’ first possession and then missed two 3-pointers before making a layup for his first field goal.
Smith wasn’t the only player to struggle with poor shooting early. Each team shot under 30 percent in the first quarter. The Pistons led 46-43 at halftime before Atlanta took a 66-64 advantage into the final period.
NOTES: Kyle Korver has made a 3-pointer in 85 consecutive games, four shy of matching the NBA record set by Dana Barros (1994-96). Korver left the game in the first period with a left eye laceration. The cut did not require stitches and he returned early in the second period to make his first of two 3s. ... The Pistons were without Chauncey Billups (left knee tendinitis), G Will Bynum (sore left hamstring) and F Charlie Villanueva (back). ... The teams play again Friday night at Detroit.