AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Jeff Teague lost the ball and figured he was in trouble, with Detroit’s Brandon Jennings breezing in for what looked like an uncontested layup.
“I knew Coach was going to show it on film, so I just had to make sure I get back and make an attempt,” Teague said. “I was able to meet him at the rim.”
Teague caught up to Jennings, leaping from behind and blocking the layup at the last instant. Teague then threw an alley-oop to Al Horford at the other end for good measure, helping the Atlanta Hawks hold on for a 96-89 victory over the Pistons tonight.
Teague scored 14 of his 18 points in the third quarter. Josh Smith, who signed a $54 million, four-year deal with Detroit in the offseason after nine years with the Hawks, was left out of the starting lineup for the first time this season. He went scoreless in 20 minutes.
Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said Smith didn’t start because he missed practice Thursday. Detroit had games Tuesday and Wednesday, and Cheeks said he didn’t inform players of Thursday’s practice until the flight back after Wednesday night’s loss at Atlanta. He said Smith wasn’t on the plane.
“There’s no NBA rule against having a practice after a back-to-back, but if we had won in Atlanta, I probably wouldn’t have called one,” Cheeks said. “I didn’t tell them until late. We were already on the team plane.”
Smith didn’t talk to reporters after tonight's game.
The Pistons led 87-86 after a 6-0 run in the fourth, but DeMarre Carroll scored inside for Atlanta while being knocked to the floor. He missed the ensuing free throw, but the Hawks came up with the rebound and Horford eventually added a free throw to make it 89-87.
Carroll added a 3-pointer to push the lead to five.
Detroit trailed 92-89 when Jennings appeared to have a clean breakaway after stealing the ball from Teague. The 6-foot-2 Teague recovered and blocked Jennings’ shot.
Jennings had 14 assists, but he went 4 for 16 from the field and struggled to defend Teague in the third quarter.
“It’s no battle or nothing like that,” Teague said. “I was trying to make a conscious effort of getting to the rim.”
Smith shot 0 for 7 from the field in his first scoreless game since December 2004, when he was a rookie.
“As far as I can remember, Josh has always started the game. I know for him, he’s dealing, his dad is not doing so well, and I think that could have been on his mind a little bit as well,” Horford said. “Josh is a great player. He’s going to get it going. He’s going to be fine.”
Detroit was up 14-12 when Smith came in with 5:47 to go in the first quarter. Atlanta went on a 15-4 run and led by as many as 11 in the half.
The Pistons caught a break in the final seconds of the second quarter when Kyle Singler was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. He made the first two free throws, and when he missed the third, Greg Monroe rebounded and made a layup. The four-point possession meant Detroit trailed only 49-44 at halftime.
The Pistons took a 52-51 lead early in the third, but Teague started a 9-2 Atlanta run with a three-point play.
Horford scored 17 points for the Hawks.
Andre Drummond had 15 points and 16 rebounds for Detroit, and Singler added 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
“I felt like I had a great game, but I’m only worried about the team,” Singler said. “I’m very disappointed that we lost this one. We thought we would play Atlanta tough, and we did, but there were too many plays that we didn’t make, and they got all the 50-50 balls.”
NOTES: Detroit was again without Chauncey Billups (knee tendinitis) and Will Bynum (left hamstring). ... Atlanta’s Kyle Korver made four 3-pointers, extending his streak to 86 games with at least one. Dana Barros holds the NBA record of 89.