If the Pistons are to take anything into the last week of the season, playing the role of spoiler is the best way to keep competitive juices high.

The Atlanta Hawks came in ready to take another step toward clinching the eighth playoff spot, being two games ahead of the New York Knicks, but the Pistons proved to be more than just a small roadblock, with a 102-95 win at Philips Arena.

Josh Smith sat out his second return engagement back to the team that drafted him and moved on without him with left patella tendinitis, and seemingly his 16 points was the easiest thing to replace, as others took advantage of more shots and more space.

Pistons interim coach John Loyer made the call for official Kenny Mauer with a little over 30 seconds remaining, when the Hawks’ inbound pass went off Elton Brand’s foot and against the scorer’s table.

His hoarse yell was audible, and the Pistons preserved their five-point spread, making it a free-throw contest the rest of the way — which doesn’t usually go the Pistons’ way.

Rodney Stuckey, who started in Smith’s place, was often the man at the line and secured the game, scoring a game-high 29 in 38 minutes. Greg Monroe also had a wealth of opportunities, taking a season-high 24 shots and scoring 21 with 13 rebounds.

“Stuckey wanted the ball at the end and wasn’t going to be denied,” Loyer said. “It was like not one guy had any panic in them.”

Most coaches expect scoring to be the least of their issues when a leading scorer is out, but the poise they showed throughout Tuesday’s game had been spotty — if not downright nonexistent — this season.

“It wasn’t surprising, it was well-needed,” Loyer said. “It was a group not trying to hold on to win a game, but trying to win a game. A lot of times we’re trying to watch the clock run out.”

Backup point guard Peyton Siva stepped into his shots with confidence, hitting a triple with a little over four minutes remaining — his third of the evening — to give the Pistons a seven-point lead.