It had the makings for a storybook ending.
There was Washington Wizards shooting guard Mike Miller putting on a gutsy performance, although he probably shouldn't have been playing with a badly sprained left shoulder. There was 5-foot-5 Earl Boykins, who wasn't even in the NBA last season but had joined the Wizards on Wednesday and three days later was coming off the bench with a heroic effort.
The Wizards had everything but the finish, blowing a six-point fourth-quarter lead to fall 106-103 and lose their sixth straight game.
"That's been the motto for the last six games now, that we're not playing the full 48 minutes of hard, intensive basketball," Gilbert Arenas said. "I thought that was supposed to be when we were 2-3 and we lost two in a row. We're finding ways to lose right now. If this was the middle of the season, six in a row doesn't seem so bad. But in the beginning of the season, everybody is winning games besides you, and it looks bad."
Washington (2-7) positioned itself to win after rebounding from a sluggish start, erasing an eight-point halftime deficit and holding off a late-game charge by the Pistons.
The Wizards led 95-89 with 5:04 left in the game, then went the rest of the way without a field goal until Arenas made a 3-pointer for his team's last points with 1.9 seconds left.
Washington was up 96-92 with three minutes left but allowed the Pistons to score seven straight points and take a 99-96 lead with 39 seconds left.
With 48 seconds left, Charlie Villanueva fouled out while battling Brendan Haywood for a rebound. But on the ensuing Washington possession, Arenas lost the ball while driving on Detroit's Rodney Stuckey.
The Pistons came racing up the floor, but Caron Butler fouled Ben Gordon, putting him on the foul line for two shots. Gordon made the first shot but missed the second, and Miller hit two free throws to pull Washington within 99-98 with 32 seconds left.
Gordon answered back with a pull-up jumper over Haywood for a 101-98 lead with 19 seconds left.
Haywood made a pair of free throws for Washington, but forced to foul, the Wizards put Gordon on the line three more times - the last of which was a dead-ball foul committed by DeShawn Stevenson with 14 seconds left - and Will Bynum added a pair of free throws to seal the win.
"It's like we're inventing ways to put ourselves in the hole," coach Flip Saunders said. "One thing that's very obvious with us - and has to change - is that if we don't make shots, the energy gets sucked out of us and we become very stagnant in the defense, and that carries over into the offense. Just because you're not making shots, you can't let that dictate the level of effort that you play with."
Gordon led Detroit with 29 points, including eight of the team's last nine.
Meanwhile, Boykins came off the bench to score 20 points and hand out three assists in 28 minutes.
Miller, who wore a padded sleeve to protect his sprained left shoulder, started after missing three games and scored 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting. He also had three assists.
Arenas and the Wizards got off to a terrible start. Shortly after he declared to reporters pregame that he was about to scrap his new serious demeanor and return to his entertaining Agent Zero ways, Arenas came out and missed all six first-quarter shot attempts.
His shooting woes proved contagious as the Wizards shot 7-for-20 from the field in the first quarter while falling behind by as many as 13 points. Detroit, meanwhile, rained down five 3-pointers in the quarter and entered the second quarter up 27-18.