AUBURN HILLS, Mich. | There are several reasons why the Detroit Pistons have spent the better part of the past decade among the elite of the Eastern Conference. One of them is their ability to get a high level of production from seemingly every player in their rotation.
And one reason why the Washington Wizards have struggled to get over the hump and elevate themselves into the conference’s elite is their inability - whether it be because of injuries, a lack of depth or inconsistent play - to produce at a high level.
Saturday night was a testament to all of that: The Pistons placed five players in double digits, weathered a second-quarter charge and executed with efficiency in the second half of a 117-109 victory at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
When it wasn’t Richard Hamilton running off screens and knocking down jumpers, it was Rasheed Wallace posting up and sinking fadeaways. And when it wasn’t Jason Maxiell coming off the bench and overpowering his counterparts in the paint or Rodney Stuckey scoring on drives to the basket, it was Walter Herrmann drilling 3-pointers.
Hamilton led the Pistons had 24 points. Wallace notched 17 and 12 rebounds, Chauncey Billups scored 12, Maxiell and Stuckey each added 11 and Herrmann finished with 16. The winless Wizards got 24 points and eight rebounds from Antawn Jamison, 21 from Caron Butler and 23 off the bench from Nick Young.
“They’re a very aggressive, physical team at both ends of the floor. They drive on you, post you up, try to pound the ball inside - their guards and their forwards and their centers. And they hit the boards,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We got better physically, but we weren’t good enough physically to cover the rebounding edge and stop them.”
The Wizards didn’t wake up until halfway through the second quarter. After calling his third timeout of the first half with Detroit leading 47-30, Jordan went with a smaller lineup of guards Young and Juan Dixon, forwards Butler and Jamison and center Darius Songaila.
Young promptly made a fadeaway jumper over Stuckey. Dixon followed with a 3-pointer and Butler scored on back-to-back baskets, cutting the Wizards’ deficit to 47-39.
Detroit called a timeout, but Jamison kept the Wizards rolling with a scoop shot in the lane, Dixon added a layup along the baseline and Jamison drilled a 3-pointer to cap a 16-0 barrage and force a Detroit timeout.
At halftime, the Wizards had a 52-51 lead. They were hitting shots, but what fueled the run was a swarming defensive attack that forced seven turnovers in the stretch.
“We just wanted to bring some energy,” Dixon said. “There was an opportunity for us to score and we wanted to take advantage of it. I just wanted to be aggressive when I got on the floor. We came up short, but we’re headed in the right direction.”
The intermission had a cooling effect on the Wizards and let the Pistons regroup. Washington missed its first three shots of the third quarter, and Detroit scored nine straight points to go up 60-53, a lead they would not relinquish.
While the Wizards as a whole had better offensive flow Saturday than they did in Wednesday’s season-opening loss to New Jersey, they weren’t at their best with the starting five on the floor. While Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson and Etan Thomas combined for 20 points, backups Young, Dixon and Songaila scored 40.
The Pistons mounted a run midway through the fourth quarter before the Wizards got within six. But Herrmann drilled a 3-pointer with 3:33 left to put his team ahead 105-96 and scored five more down the stretch to help Detroit pull away.