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Pistons push past Hawks
ATL 5 col col
Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson drives against Detroit Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince in the first half Saturday in Auburn Hills, Mich. - photo by Associated Press
    AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Pistons knew they had a chance at an easy win Saturday night.
    For once, they were able to take it.
    Nazr Mohammed had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and the Pistons blocked a season-high 16 shots in a 108-81 victory over the undermanned Atlanta Hawks.
    ‘‘For the first time this season, we were able to just come out and do what we needed to do,’’ Chauncey Billups said. ‘‘We just took control and never looked back. We should have a lot more games like that.’’
    Atlanta was missing five players due to injury, including four of its six leading scorers. The Hawks only dressed 10 players, two short of the maximum, and lost their fourth in a row.
    ‘‘It’s tough when you are missing three starters and another two guys that are averaging 28 points off the bench,’’ Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. ‘‘We played pretty solid in the first half, but they wore us down in the second half.’’
    With Ben Wallace in Chicago, the Pistons struggled with interior defense early in the season, but they no longer look like the team that allowed the Bucks 70 points in the paint in their first game of the season.
    ‘‘After that Milwaukee game, we really put an emphasis on protecting the basket,’’ Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. ‘‘It’s become a point of pride that we contest everything.’’
    Mohammed got his first double-double as a Piston to help Detroit get its fourth straight win. Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince each scored 16, despite only playing 25 minutes apiece, and seven players blocked at least two shots.
    ‘‘This is a different scenario than what you saw at the beginning of the season,’’ Prince said. ‘‘We had to get adjusted to the players we had this season, but now we’re doing a good job inside.’’
    Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, who came into the game averaging 28.4 points, had a season-low 12 on 6-for-16 shooting. Marvin Williams led the Hawks with 19.
    ‘‘Detroit’s one of the best teams in the league, and when they get you down, they know how to keep you down,’’ Williams said. ‘‘We’ve been bitten by the injury bug this whole year, but we still had five guys out there and five more on the bench. We could have competed a little better than we did tonight.’’
    The Hawks pulled down 14 offensive rebounds in the first half, but still managed only 37 points. Detroit got 10 points from Mohammed and held a nine-point edge at the intermission.
    The Pistons began to pull away early in the third quarter, thanks to a 22-7 run. Mohammed had eight points in the surge, which gave Detroit a 69-47 lead.
    Jason Maxiell put the game completely out of hand with a four-point possession midway through the fourth. He was flagrantly fouled by Lorenzen Wright, made both free throws, then scored off Detroit’s inbounds pass. He could have added a fifth point, as he was fouled on the shot, but missed the free throw.
    ‘‘Max is playing so hard and contesting every shot,’’ Billups said. ‘‘He plays with so much intensity that it brings up the intensity for everyone else.’’
Notes: Johnson had scored at least 16 points in all 21 games he had played this season. ... Pistons rookie Will Blalock hit the first field goal of his career early in the second quarter. Blalock had been 0-for-6 in 37 minutes over four games. ... Atlanta’s injured players — Josh Smith (hernia), Josh Childress (foot), Speedy Claxton (back), Tyronn Lue (groin) and Zaza Pachulia (elbow) are averaging a total of 59.7 points, 62 percent of the Hawks’ offense this season. Smith, Pachulia and Claxton were all injured in Friday’s loss to Indiana.