- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Detroit Pistons own NBA’s best record and may well wind up winning their second title in three years. Apparently, that means nothing when they face the Washington Wizards.

Last night at Verizon Center, the Wizards administered a 110-92 whipping behind 34 points from Gilbert Arenas and 30 from Caron Butler. Washington, winners of both meetings in the series this season, dissected Detroit by shooting 55.4 percent from the field.

The beating was so complete that when an altercation broke out in section 116 with just more than six minutes left, the 20-point lead the Wizards held could do nothing to distract the gaze of most of the 20,173 fans, mostly because the game was over long before the scuffle.

Washington, which ended an eight-game home losing streak to the Pistons that dated to March 14, 2001, also got a solid performance from Antonio Daniels, who made the start at shooting guard in place of the injured Jared Jeffries. Daniels finished with 16 points and seven assists.

The Wizards (31-30), who denied the Pistons (49-12) their 50th win of the season, led by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter and cruised for most of the night.

“We can play like this every night, and there is no holding back; we can play like this every night,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We have 21 games left, and the bottom half of the Eastern Conference can turn either way. If we play like this coming down the stretch — and there is no holding back — we can play this way.”

Arenas shined, making 13 of 19 field goals and handing out six assists. He said his performance had nothing to do with any ill feelings toward Pistons coach Flip Saunders, who played him barely more than nine minutes in the All-Star Game last month.

“When I looked at the roster, I knew I wasn’t going to play a lot of minutes,” Arenas said. “I’m not holding anything against him.

“I just think that we played very well against them. They have shown that they are a dominant team this year. We’ve just pulled off two wins against them, but we’re not dominant. This just shows us that we can play at a high level and win some crucial games.”

Washington won at Detroit 120-114 in double overtime Nov. 25. The teams will face off once more in the regular season — April 19 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Last night’s victory prevented the Wizards from dipping below .500 and won for just the second time in seven games.

The Wizards held a double-digit lead most of the way. When the Pistons cut the margin to eight at the beginning of the third quarter, the Wizards responded with a swooping dunk from Daniels, a 3-pointer by Daniels and a 3 by Antawn Jamison that restored the lead to 17 points.

After that, the Pistons never posed a serious threat.

“They kicked our butts every which way,” Saunders said. “I would like to point to one area and say that we did something well, but we didn’t. We have the best record in the league right now, but we aren’t playing the best basketball in the league right now.”

The Pistons were led by former Washington player Rasheed Wallace (18 points).

The Wizards picked up their intensity from the start of the second quarter and went ahead 37-30 when Jamison got loose for a fast-break dunk with a little more than 10 minutes to play in the half.

After making 57 percent of their shots in the first quarter, the Wizards had an even better shooting touch in the second, improving to 64.7 percent (11-for-17) in the period.

That translated into a 52-39 lead following a 3 by Butler with 5:55 remaining before halftime. At that point the Pistons turned to backup guard Tony Delk for offense, and the journeyman responded. The Pistons closed the first half on a 14-7 run, with Delk scoring 12 of the points.

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