The Detroit Pistons came into the game at Verizon Center tonight with a record of 22-37, so it's not like they are unbeatable. They are to the Wizards, though, who, playing without an injured Nene tonight, have now lost six straight games to the Pistons after this 96-95 defeat. Detroit has now swept the season series from Washington.
Washington mounted a furious fourth quarter comeback, with Trevor Ariza carrying the team on his back as far as he could and the Wizards narrowed Detroit's lead to 1 point iwth 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter. However, Washington's final play was a fiasco, as John Wall passed off to Bradley Beal, who penetrated into the lane and threw wildly out to the three point line when two Pistons defenders closed to shut him away from the basket. The ball was tipped to Ariza in the corner, just behind the three point line. Ariza lofted up a shot that looked to many in the arena and watching on TV as if it went in perfectly, giving Washington a miraculous 98-96 win. Even TV announcers Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier thought the shot was good, with Buckhantz unleashing his signature "DAGGER!" call. However, the ball fell short, an airball that harmlessly brushed against the net on its way to the floor. Bemusedly, Buckhantz "retracted" his dagger call, noting such a thing had never happened before.
With about a minute to play the Wizards looked finished, down by 9 without the juice to do anything about it. However, that's when Ariza hit a wild three point shot and after a Pistons turnover, took a pass from Wall and hit another three point shot, cutting Detroit's lead to three. On the next Detroit possession, Ariza stepped into a passing lane about 35 feet from the Wizards basket and stole a pass. Will Bynum of the Pistons grabbed Ariza and, after much referee consultation, was called for a clear path foul. That gave Ariza two free throws and possession of the ball to the Wizards. Ariza calmly sank both free throws to narrow Detroit's lead to one point. That's when it came down to the last play and the dagger that never was.
The Wizards started very slowly and trailed for much of the first half, but somehow managed to hold a 4-point lead at halftime thanks to fine play from Beal and Ariza. However, the Wizards forgot to come out of the locker room in the third quarter and got outscored 31-13, including a 21-2 run by Detroit. The Pistons had a 14 point lead heading into the fourth and there appeared to be little the Wizards could do about it. The Wizards slowly chipped away at the lead for most of the fourth quarter, but still trailed by nine with about a minute to play when Ariza began his heroics.
John Wall's struggles not only continued tonight, they got much worse. Shooting under 30% from the field in the five previous games, Wall fell off the map tonight with 3-9 shooting for 6 points, 4 assists and 7 turnovers. The more aggressive Wall got the worse he seemed to play.
Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe led the Pistons tonight, with 32 points and 26 points and 11 rebounds respectively. Point guard Jose Calderon contributed mightily with 18 assists. Washington countered with 15 points from Emeka Okafor, 16 from Beal and 22 from Ariza. Kevin Seraphin got out of the doghouse and off the bench long enough to contribute 12 points on 10 shots in 17 minutes. Trevor Booker started in place of Nene, but didn't do much offensively or on the boards, though he did shut down Jason Maxiell when he was in there.
The Wizards win, when they win, more in spite of Wall than because of him lately. Whatever Wall needs to do get himself out of the horrible funk he is in right now, he must do it without delay.