Chauncey Billups had 24 points and 10 assists and Detroit pulled down a season-high 18 offensive rebounds in a 103-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
Wallace signed with Chicago in the offseason and the Pistons have struggled to rebound without him. But they were encouraged by their performance against the Hawks.
"That was huge," Billups said. "That's all about effort and energy, and that's what we weren't getting early in the season."
Billups was one of three Pistons with a double-double. Rasheed Wallace finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Tayshaun Prince had 15 points and 11 boards in Detroit's fourth straight victory.
"I was missing some easy shots, so I figured I better get something off the glass," Prince said. "We always struggle against that team, because they have so many athletic players."
The Hawks came in with a three-game losing streak and were missing Marvin Williams (hand) and Josh Childress (foot), but still gave the Pistons a tough night.
"We're short-handed -- we have to get Williams and Childress back in there," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "Our guys are playing too many minutes, and we've had four carbon-copy games. We come down the stretch, and we can't rebound the ball. That just takes the spark out of your defense."
The Pistons entered the fourth quarter with a one-point lead, but missed their first five shots. The Hawks only managed three free throws, though, keeping the game tight.
Detroit increased its advantage by dominating the offensive boards, getting four putback baskets -- two each by Prince and Antonio McDyess -- in a 5-minute span.
"Dice was great for us tonight," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "He's getting his legs back and he had some big plays."
The Pistons led 91-85 with 2:50 to go, and held on through a foul-filled finish.
"I thought we were still going to be here for Thanksgiving dinner," Saunders joked.
Along with the rebounding edge, the Pistons also forced 18 turnovers while only committing eight.
"We're at our best when we are forcing turnovers," Billups said. "That makes the game easier, because it takes the pressure off your halfcourt offense."
"This was a tough loss," Johnson said. "We just aren't following the game plan. We aren't boxing out, and we haven't been able to come up with the big rebounds. That has hurt us the last few games."
Thanks to an early 14-3 run, Atlanta led for most of the first half, including a 49-45 lead at the break. The Pistons shot 36 percent in the half, and only stayed close because of 10 offensive rebounds and 10 Atlanta turnovers.
Atlanta went ahead by 11 by scoring the first seven points of the third quarter, including five from Johnson.
The Hawks, though, kept turning the ball over, and the Pistons came back to tie it at 63.
Detroit finished the period with a 73-72 lead. The Hawks had seven turnovers in the quarter -- three by Johnson.
Wednesday was the first of Atlanta's two holiday-week visits to Detroit -- the Hawks also play at the Palace on Dec. 23. ... Atlanta hit six of its first eight 3-point attempts. ... Pistons starting center Nazr Mohammed fouled out despite playing just 16 minutes. ... Williams had never scored more than eight points in his monthlong NBA career.