- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Anybody wondering why Detroit Pistons center Ben Wallace has had his name mentioned as a potential league MVP despite not averaging even seven points a game needed only watch the one-man dismantling of his former team last night at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Wallace, who mostly sat on the bench in the three years he was with the Wizards, finished with season highs in points (17) and rebounds (24) and had three blocked shots. He established such a tone of dominance in the Pistons' 90-80 victory over the Washington Wizards that in the fourth quarter Wallace was allowed to have some fun.
With about 10 minutes remaining in a game the Wizards needed desperately, Wallace, who had failed to make any of the three previous 3-point shots he has taken this season, launched a 24-foot air ball.
But that didn't matter. By that time Wallace and his Central Division-leading Pistons (41-23) had already done enough damage to the Wizards' fading playoff hopes.
Wallace made up for his one misstep, sinking his first 3 of the season on the game's final basket.
Wizards coach Doug Collins has said teams come in with incentive not only to beat the Wizards, but to beat Michael Jordan. And last night that was at the core of Wallace's motivation.
"It was Mike's last night being here," Wallace said. "I just wanted to come out and play hard and compete against him. That shows the ultimate respect to a guy if you come out and try to beat him down in his last night in the building. He's done a lot for the game. If it wasn't for him a lot of guys wouldn't be here. So we owe it to him to come out and compete."
Jordan finished with 15 points in his last appearance at the Palace. After the game Jordan acknowledged that he would have loved to have Wallace, traded from Washington to Orlando in 1999, in a Washington uniform.
Said Jordan: "The Wizards traded him to Orlando, and they traded him to Detroit. Those are two teams who wish they could change the hands of time and change certain circumstances."
The loss was the Wizards' fifth in their last seven, and the manner in which it was administered was devastating. The Wizards fell to 9-21 on the road. And if they are going to make the playoffs, they are going to have to do it by winning road games. Twelve of their remaining 17 games are away.
"We're going to have to play on the road better," Collins said. "We play with a lack of confidence on the road. If a team gets us out of what we're doing we lose a little bit of our confidence. We didn't play with confidence. They got into us defensively. We've got Miami tomorrow, the Pistons later and then we go on a six-game Western road trip. So we're going to know real quickly whether or not we're going to be able to hang in there and do what we have to do to win. But we're going to have to win on the road."
On a night when the Wizards (31-34) could have at least pulled even with the idle Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they lost ground and are now a full game behind the Bucks.
And they were outplayed in so many areas.
With Wallace leading the way, the Pistons dominated the rebounding 53-35. And for the second night they failed to convert a 3-point field goal and are now 0-for-15 in their last two games.
Jerry Stackhouse led the Wizards with 24 points but left the game late in the fourth quarter when he appeared to twist his left ankle while attempting a layup. Stackhouse is expected to be available for the Wizards tonight. Christian Laettner finished with six points and four rebounds, center Brendan Haywood added four points and four boards and Larry Hughes was 1-for-6 from the floor for just two points.
Chauncey Billups led the Pistons with 25 points, and former Wizard Richard Hamilton finished with 19.
Still, the Wizards said last night's loss wasn't as bad as it looked.
"Tonight's loss wasn't staggering," Collins said. "If we lose tomorrow at home to Miami, that will be staggering.
Stackhouse agreed.
"Nothing has changed," Stackhouse said. "We just lost this game, but I think we still have a chance. We just have to find a way to win games on the road. We have the confidence at home that we don't seem to have on the road. Unfortunately for us, we have a big road trip ahead of us. We have to find a way to get some momentum."

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