- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

AUBURN HILLS, Mich This was supposed to be about Jerry Stackhouse returning to face his old team in an old-fashioned, knock-down, drag-out rumble. But the Washington Wizards' second road victory this season evolved on a night when players not used to standing in the spotlight did just that.

The Wizards ended the Detroit Pistons' streak of four consecutive victories over them because guys like Larry Hughes, Brendan Haywood and Christian Laettner did the things the little things that the team wants from them, and this helped the Wizards earn a solid 88-83 victory.

The win ended the Pistons' dominance in the Palace of Auburn Hills, a place where they have grown accustomed to kicking the Wizards around. Last night's victory marked just the second time in eight visits the Wizards have come out on top.

The Wizards (8-10) seemingly had grown accustomed to the Pistons (12-6) bullying them around in the paint. And Ben Wallace, the former Wizard, has usually been the catalyst for this.

But last night Wallace's 10 points and game-high 15 rebounds didn't affect the outcome. The Wizards won the battle of the boards, outrebounding Detroit 45-34. This enabled them to win a game in which they had their worst free throw shooting of the season (23-for-34), and were held without a field goal for the final 3:41.

"We've struggled to win and we've had some stretches where we've just broke down," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "Tonight we stayed tough. I thought the real key to our win was the play of Christian Laettner and Brendan Haywood in the second half. Those guys did a great job.

"Detroit has owned us over the last year. For us to win, we know we had to control the tempo. That and get them into a halfcourt game. And we were able to do that."

Stackhouse and Michael Jordan both finished with 21 points for the Wizards, although they shot just 12-for-34. But Hughes put up his first double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds). Haywood battled Wallace inside, never giving an inch, and finished with 11 points, six rebounds and altered at least five shots while playing 40 minutes.

And Laettner, who has been somewhat of a forgotten man in recent days, played 30 minutes and finished with six points and six rebounds.

"If I get the minutes, I'll start to be effective," Haywood said.

Of his productive night, Hughes said it's attributable to his recovering from an ailing knee. And he missed a game earlier in the season with a sore wrist.

"I'm playing better because I'm starting to get healthy," said Hughes, who pulled down eight rebounds the night before in Washington's win over Milwaukee.

The Wizards connected on eight of their last 10 free throws to secure the win.

Washington took away Detroit's inside game, turning the Pistons into a jump-shooting team that attempted 24 3-pointers (making 10). Detroit never lived up to its billing as a tenacious, attacking unit. The Pistons made just 14 trips to the free throw line.

Chucky Atkins led the Pistons off the bench with 17 points. Former Wizard Richard Hamilton failed to impress against his old team, finishing with 16 points.

In the end it was the Wizards' toughness that proved to be crucial.

"Tonight a lot of guys stepped up for us and helped us get this big win," said Jordan, who also had nine boards and six assists. "They get a lot of credit for playing tough."

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