For the third straight home game the Wizards built a double digit lead, squandered it, went ice cold in the fourth quarter and lost in the final seconds of the game. Tonight it was the Pistons who overcame some truly brutal shooting to beat Washington 79-77 on Rodney Stuckey's 23rd and 24th points of the night. The loss drops the Wizards to 11-38 overall, 6-19 at home.
Washington led for most of the game despite shooting 41 percent from the field all night and taking far fewer free throws than their opponent. The offense was brutal on both sides of the court, as Detroit led 16-14 at the end of the first quarter and the Wizards led 35-30 at halftime. The third quarter was good for Washington, as Kevin Seraphin came in to score 8 points on four nice shots in the lane and Washington went up by nine entering the fourth quarter. The Wizards led 67-55 early in the fourth quarter but then, as they have so often the past week or so, went ice cold late in the game and couldn't get points anywhere. The offense broke down and it was unclear if the players were running any of the plays Head Coach Randy Wittman was calling.
Jordan Crawford left Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey alone at top of the three point line and he buried the shot to put Detroit up 74-73 with 55 seconds left in regulation. It was Detroit's first lead since early in the second period. The Wizards came back and cleared out the left side for Nene, who took the entry pass, drove into the lane on defender Ben Wallace, then spun back toward the baseline and dropped in a nifty layup that swirled around the rim before going down. The Pistons came back and fed Tayshaun Prince on the block, who worked into the lane and put up a short shot over rookie Wizards defender Chris Singleton. Prince's shot bounced off the rim, but Greg Monroe shot into the paint, elevated above everyone else, and tipped the ball back into the hoop to put Detroit back up 76-75 with 23 seconds left in regulation. The Wizards came back with more two-man game for Nene and John Wall, who took a baseline pass from Nene, drove to the rim and missed a tough layup. Ben Wallace grabbed the rebound and was fouled before he could shoot it. Wallace is one of the NBA's worst all time free throw shooters, but he made the first of two to put Detroit up 77-75. Nene grabbed the rebound off Wallace's missed free throw and timeout was called with 10 seconds remaining.
Crawford in-bounded to Nene, who drove into the lane and shot over Wallace in the paint. The ball went down to tie the game at 77 with five seconds left. The Pistons drove down the court quickly and Rodney Stuckey elevated over Crawford for a contested 16-footer at the elbow that went in perfectly with 0.2 seconds left. The game was over. Amazingly, the Pistons won despite committing 18 turnovers and dishing only 12 assists and shooting a mere 37% from the field. Very few teams -- maybe just one -- would lose a game like that. The Wizards do it. The Pistons enjoyed a huge advantage in free throw shooting, despite playing on the road. The Pistons took 25 shots from the line, compared to only 14 for the Wizards. Detroit also out-rebounded the Wizards 49-40. The biggest stat that hurt the Wizards, though, was second chance points, which the Pistons won 23-5, including 8-0 in the fourth quarter. The Wizards couldn't finish out plays defensively any more than they could finish out the game.
Head Coach Randy Wittman was clearly frustrated after the game, saying the team cannot continue to choke away leads in the fourth quarter. Wittman said the Wizards "need to tighten the screws even more when you've got a team down," but instead they don't focus or put their opponent away. He expressed bafflement at the way the offense is being run when the team holds a lead. That seems to be a shot at John Wall. He did praise the team's defense, though, saying: "Defensively we're better than we've been all year." He called this loss "a learning experience," but seems frustrated that the team requires so many learning experiences.
Wizards Player of the Game
Jordan Crawford: 20 points, 9-16 FG, 5 assists, 1 TO, +8 court ratio