- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2003

When points are as hard to come by as they sometimes can be in the NBA, little things can be a huge factor in the outcome.

And in the second half of the Washington Wizards’ 80-69 loss to the Detroit Pistons last night at MCI Center, a questionable no-call seemed to helped defeat in a game where the Wizards scored 23 points in the second half and broke a franchise record for lowest production in a half for the second time in a week.

With less than six minutes to play and the game tied at 65, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan received a technical when he complained too vehemently a traveling call had not been made against the Pistons’ Chauncey Billups.

Following the technical Detroit quickly pushed the lead to 70-65 and the Wizards never led again after being ahead for most of the first half.

“I thought it was a travel,” Jordan said after the game. “And that’s the heartbreak part about it. You’ve got your pressure up and it creates, I think, what it’s intended to do. [The travel] was there in my mind, but they didn’t call it. That’s a crucial play for us.”

The loss, in front of 16,853, was the fourth in five games and the eighth in their last 11 for the Wizards (6-10). Washington made eight of 39 field goals in the second half (21 percent). Last week in an 88-85 loss to Seattle, the Wizards scored just 24 points, then a record low, in the first half.

The Wizards felt their inability to make shots, not the Pistons’ defense, resulted in their lowest scoring night of the season.

“We were out of sync,” said Larry Hughes (15 points). “We had shots, open shots, we missed shots. But going into the fourth, we were still down two. As bad as we shot, we still played defense. I don’t know what they shot, but it couldn’t have been too much better.”

Hughes was right. The Pistons’ 40.9 percent shooting was slightly better than Washington’s 37.8.

Last night’s game was just a brief respite from the road in a grueling stretch of seven of eight games away from MCI for the Wizards, who begin a four-game, eight-day trip Tuesday.

This loss was particularly painful since the Wizards squander a career-best effort by center Brendan Haywood (23 points, 11 rebounds). Jared Jeffries came off the bench to score nine points and grab six rebounds.

The Wizards needed a strong effort from Haywood since Etan Thomas came down with the flu before the game and did not play.

“It’s frustrating because we went out there and played pretty well,” Haywood said. “We’re missing Gilbert [Arenas], [Jerry] Stackhouse and Etan. That’s about 50 points out of our lineup. So we’re trying to make it up, but we’re shorthanded. But we can’t use that as an excuse. We have to be men and do our job.”

One night after scoring a career-high 44 points, former Wizard Richard Hamilton led the Pistons (12-6) with 25 points. Billups added 22 points and six assists.

Haywood got his chance after power forward Kwame Brown was whistled for his third foul with 5:32 left in the first quarter. With Brown saddled to the bench the entire second quarter, Haywood was as aggressive as he has ever been since the Wizards acquired him from Orlando in 2001.

With Haywood wreaking unexpected havoc, Washington used a 14-2 run in the first quarter to build a 28-20 lead late in the quarter. When the Pistons used an 8-0 run in the second to close within 33-32, Hughes picked up the slack, scoring nine of the Wizards next 11 and helping them to a 46-41 lead at the half.

But the inspiration the Wizards played with in the first half was nowhere to be found at the start of the third quarter. Washington opened the third in a serve funk, missing its first 11 shots before Haywood scored on a short jumper. The basket interrupted an 11-0 Detroit run and pulled the Wizards, who made just three baskets in the third period, within 52-48.

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