- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2012

The Washington Wizards lost to the Detroit Pistons 79-77 on Monday night at Verizon Center — a game that was a stunning mirror image of their last two home losses.

Once again, the Wizards built a double-digit lead — going up by as many 13 points in the fourth quarter — only to allow the Pistons to steadily chip away and climb back into the game.

And, once again, the Wizards‘ inability to close out games turned what should have been an easy win into a loss.

“It’s frustrating,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “Those guys hurt, too. But we gotta keep plugging. How long it takes, I don’t know. It was a carbon copy of the last two [home] games. We have to put games away in the fourth quarter, we just haven’t learned that yet.”

The Pistons completed their fourth-quarter comeback when guard Rodney Stuckey (24 points) hit a three-point shot to give them the lead.

Nene put the Wizards back up with 23 second left, and for a moment, it looked like the Wizards might be able to avoid a third straight collapse at home. But Stuckey came through for the Pistons again in the closing seconds, giving Detroit the win.

Jordan Crawford led the Wizards with 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field, adding five assists. John Wall had 14 points and nine assists. Stuckey’s 24 points led the Pistons, and Tayshaun Prince added 18.

“It’s frustrating. We are not consistent enough and we need to play a full 48 minutes,” Crawford said. “We just got to keep working hard and compete. We have to find ways to win.”

The Wizards shot 41 percent overall while the Pistons shot just 36.8 percent, but Detroit managed to make shots when it was needed in the game’s closing seconds.

“We are getting great shots at the end, we’re just not making them,” Wall said. “We’re getting defensive stops, but giving up offensive rebounds. Teams keep making those runs.”

It was a game the Wizards should have won easily after thoroughly outplaying Detroit in the first half, when the Pistons started out with an even more lackluster performance than the Wizards. The Pistons shot a dismal 27.8 percent in the first half; the Wizards, a slightly better 35.7 percent.

The Wizards had an excuse — they were playing their third game in three straight nights. As for the Pistons, who last played on Saturday night in a blowout road loss to the New York Knicks, there was little excuse for the mediocre effort.

“It was an ugly, grimy, grindy” game, Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “I mean, the first half — the NBA called and they were about to throw us both out of the building.”

Though Nene returned to the lineup after sitting out Sunday’s game against the Boston Celtics with back spasms, the team was still not at full strength. Trevor Booker missing the game with tendonitis in his right knee. Booker is also dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

The Wizards will finally get a couple of much-needed days off before traveling to Indiana to play the Pacers on Thursday.