NBA Basketball

Bench players helping Pistons during 8-3 start

Anthony Tolliver doesn't know if and when he's going to play. That puts him on par with most of the other Detroit Pistons reserves.

Coach Stan Van Gundy hasn't settled on a rotation, so the veteran forward just makes sure he's prepared for anything.

"You're not forced to stay ready," Tolliver said. "Each of us, we have to take responsibility to do that. So far this year, each of us that are considered the role guys or the guys who aren't the starters and aren't in the permanent rotation, we just have to stay ready."

Detroit's deep bench is a big reason for its surprising 8-3 start. The Pistons will try to extend their winning streak to four games when they host Atlanta on Friday.

Backup point guard Ish Smith has appeared in every game. Power forward and backup center Jon Leuer is part of the rotation but he's expected to miss his fourth straight game with a left ankle sprain.

Beyond that, it's anybody's guess who will be called upon from game-to-game. Swingman Reggie Bullock got a spot start on Wednesday in place of Stanley Johnson, who sat out with a hip flexor strain. Bullock contributed seven points and three assists in a 114-97 victory over Indiana but there's no guarantee he'll start again if Johnson remains sidelined.

Reserve center Boban Marjanovic got his number called for just the second time this season and delivered nine second-quarter points. Guards Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard, forward Henry Ellenson and center Eric Moreland have each appeared in at least five games. Detroit's bench is outscoring the opposition's reserves by an average of 4.5 points per game.

"We're only 11 games in and literally all 14 guys have made significant contributions at one point or another," Van Gundy said. "Players hear it all the time, everybody's going to get their opportunity, you have to stay ready. We're only 11 games in and it's come true. They know there are some guys that are going to be out there every night and some that won't be, but everybody is going to be important to us as the year goes on."

The Hawks (2-9) have won seven of the last 11 meetings but they've gone into full rebuild mode. They displayed scrappiness in their most recent outings, snapping an eight-game losing streak with a 117-115 victory at Cleveland, then making Boston work hard in a 110-107 loss.

Atlanta comes to Detroit off a three-day break.

Point guard Dennis Schroder (22.6 points per game) has led the Hawks in scoring five of the last six games. Center Dewayne Dedmon, the team's leading rebounder (7.9 per game), has perked up offensively. He scored 15 against the Cavaliers and a season-high 19 against the Celtics.

"I think it was one of Dewayne's better games," coach Mike Budenholzer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I thought he was active on the boards and active communicating defensively."

Budenholzer has given the 7-footer the green light to take an occasional 3-pointer. Dedmon, who attempted just one 3-pointer during his first four seasons, is 5-for-13 from long range.

"He's spending a lot of time working on it," Budenholzer told the newspaper. "He and I talked about it, when something is new, you may have a little bit of a rocky start. But this is something we believe in and we are going to keep pushing the envelope."

The Hawks are a little depleted at power forward. Ersan Ilyasova (bone bruise, left knee) won't make the trip and Mike Muscala (sprained left ankle) is doubtful.

Updated November 9, 2017

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