Rarely this season have the Washington Wizards taken the floor and not appeared to be in contention at least at some point in the contest.
That wasn’t the case last night, which helps to explain why many of the 15,763 fans were headed for the Verizon Center exits with plenty of time left in the Wizards’ 106-93 loss to the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons, who improved to 25-7 and earned their 10th straight victory, haven’t lost a game since Dec. 12 at Houston. Detroit placed seven players in double figures, its bench outscored Washington’s 33-8 and the bad part was the Pistons didn’t even look like they were trying.
“They are the best team in the league right now, and you have to see how you respond to them,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said shortly after his team fell to 15-15. “And if this was a test, I’d give us a C-minus. And that’s only because we had a stretch there in the first quarter and the second half where we played.
“I thought overall we didn’t respond the right way attitude-wise,” Jordan continued. “That’s what I was disappointed in more than anything. I think our starters were maybe a little disappointed when we went with the bench a little bit more, and it showed. I don’t think we responded well, and that’s big to me in sports, how you respond when things get a little tough, and we didn’t pass the test.”
The Wizards didn’t pass the ball well, either, finishing with just 13 assists. The Pistons, led by Richard Hamilton’s 20 points and nine assists, had 23 assists.
The Wizards led 27-26 at the end of the first quarter. The Pistons then opened the second quarter on a 10-0 run to take the lead permanently.
The Wizards never got closer than 10 points in the second half, and the Pistons, who improved to 10-1 on the road, eventually led by 20 points.
The Pistons’ dominance kept the fans out of the game all night long. The only time there was any crowd reaction was when the faces of different Dallas Cowboys players popped up on the Jumbotron.
“They took us out of our comfort zone,” said Washington’s Antawn Jamison, who finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. “This was a challenge for us to see how we stood against one of the elite teams in the league, and we didn’t do very well. We knew how big this game was. We knew this team was on a roll and had been playing phenomenally well. We just didn’t come out and play well at all.”
Caron Butler led the Wizards with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Brendan Haywood notched 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Guard Antonio Daniels, out since Dec. 13 with a sprained right knee, looked pretty good in his return, finishing with a season-high 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting in 35 minutes.
“It felt good,” Daniels said of his knee.
Daniels didn’t spend too much time talking about his knee, though. Instead, the nine-year veteran bemoaned a Washington performance he thought should have been better.
“Against a team like that you have to maintain the energy a little bit longer. You can’t have as many highs and lows,” Daniels said. “You make mistakes, [and] that team makes you pay for them. You have such a small window for error against a team like that. They will make you pay if you don’t do things the right way every time. It’s easy to say and difficult to do. They played a great game, but we can play a lot better also.”