Game Report 28: Wizards 106 Pistons 99

Updated: December 31, 2013

THE GAME TURNED WHEN… the fourth quarter began and the Wizards scored the first 11 points. Trailing 87-78 after three, the Wizards came out with their backups on the court and that 9-point Pistons lead disappeared fast. Martell Webster drew first blood with a layup off a nice assist from Nene Hilario and then Kevin Seraphin grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed layup by Otto Porter and put the ball in, cutting Detroit’s lead to five. After forcing a clock shot violation on defense, the Wiz came back and got another Seraphin layup off another Nene assist to cut the lead to three. The lead was cut to three and Detroit called a timeout. It didn’t matter.

After forcing Josh Smith to miss a short jumper, the Wiz came back and got a nice 18-foot swish from Otto Porter to cut the lead to one. [Amazingly, Seraphin got the assist on that bucket.] After Josh Smith missed another short shot, Martell Webster drained an open 25-footer, thanks to an assist from Garrett Temple, to put the Wiz up by two. They would never trail after that.

THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN… Bradley Beal and Nene both made long jump shots off John Wall assists, but Washington led only by four, 101-97, when the Pistons had the ball with 50 seconds left. When Josh Smith charged into the paint for a layup, he was met by Wizards center Marcin Gortat made the defensive play of the night by swatting away Smith’s layup, saving the points. Nene quickly grabbed the defensive rebound and handed the ball off to Wall. Washington’s franchise player dribbed the seconds away before lining up for a fallaway 19-footer from the elbow… and swished it. A tough shot has rarely looked so easy or pretty and with Wall’s beautiful 2-pointer, the lead was 103-97 with only 27 seconds to play. The Pistons called timeout, but the game was over. Detroit had to foul Wall, who made three of four free throws down the stretch, to put the game on ice.

THE GOOD… The bench, which outscored Detroit’s reserves 35-13.  They also beat them on the board to the tune of 14-5. It was the bench that led the comeback to start the fourth quarter after the starters struggled most of the night. The Wizards are now 4-1 since they moved Nene to the bench. Don’t mess with it.

Washington didn’t light it up from beyond the arc tonight [7-19 or 37%], but they shot 50 percent overall. While the Pistons had a big advantage in the paint [see below], Washington made up for it with solid shooting from mid-to-long range. Particular credit goes to the bench, which hit 15-25 shots on the night.

THE BAD… The last time these two teams met the Wizards won by having their big men beat Detroit’s big men. Not tonight. Detroit’s big three — Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe — combined for 54 points and 35 rebounds. Washington’s big three of Gortat, Trevor Booker and Trevor Ariza managed only 29 and 19. To be fair to Ariza, he provided 15 of the points and 11 of the rebounds. It was really just Gortat and Booker who got taken to school tonight. 

As you might expect from what you just read, the Pistons destroyed the Wizards in the paint tonight, 50-32.

THE UGLY… The Pistons out-scored the Wizards 24-10 on fast break points. On the one hand, it’s nice to see the Wiz win a road game without running up a big advantage in early offense, but that fast break deficit was a major reason the Pistons were able to build a big lead in the first place.

THE STAR… John Wall had trouble with his shot early, missing 8 of his first 11 from the field, but he bounced back in the fourth quarter, making his last 4 shots. Wall was also 14 of 15 from the line to finish with 29 points on only 15 shots. He did have 5 turnovers, but added 7 assists and was clearly the best player on the floor in the fourth quarter when the Wizards were putting the Pistons away. This was Wall’s seventh straight game with at least 20 points.

THE STUDS… Trevor Ariza filled up the stats tonight with 15 points, 11 rebounds, 6 steals and 4 dimes. So did Nene Hilario, who came up with 11 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists in 28 minutes off the bench.

THE DUDS… No one, really. Trevor Booker wasn’t good tonight, but I don’t know if he was a total dud. 

THE BENCHWARMERS… Eric Maynor and Chris Singleton were cheerleaders tonight. In Maynor’s case, that’s not new and he should probably get used to it. Singleton is seeing his minutes taken by Otto Porter, Jr., who suddenly looks like a real NBA player. 

THE QUOTE… “Our second unit, I think, was the big difference. Toward the end of of that third quarter, when we went to them, I thought they played great. They got the momentum changed in our favor and then our starters came back in and closed out the game.” – Coach Randy Wittman

AND WHAT IT ALL MEANS… The Wizards have won five out of their last six, with four of those wins coming on the road. The result: Washington will end 2013 at .500. This is the first time since 2007-08 the Wizards have been at .500 after 28 games. More impressive is how they won. Washington trailed by nine points after three quarters and came back to win, the first time in 199 road games — since beating the Hawks in Atlanta in 2001. Are the Wizards a good team? Well, they’re only .500 in a terrible Eastern Conference, but the truth is they look like a good team many nights. They still have too many games, like the one against the Timberwolves, where we see abundant evidence that the bad old Wizards are still lurking, just barely beneath the surface and ready to re-emerge at any time. But the Wizards are now learning to win on the road, learning to beat teams they have not beaten and learning how to not give up when they trail in the second half. This is all progress on the long march back to respectability. Steps on that march have been taken.