- Associated Press - Saturday, February 20, 2016

With a week off for the all-star break, the Washington Wizards reflected on their inconsistent defense.

Maybe that’s all they needed to change it.

John Wall scored 22 points, Bradley Beal added 17 points and the Wizards played strong defense for the second consecutive night in a 98-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

Marcin Gortat added 15 points for Washington, which held the Utah Jazz to 89 points the night before and kept opponents under 90 points in back-to-back games for just the second time this season.

“Just effort and communication, that’s all it is,” said Wall, whose Wizards are 6-1 when allowing fewer than 90 points, and 15-5 when allowing fewer than 100. “We’ve been saying it half of the season. Play defense. But two games coming out of the break, it’s great to see that we’re back to doing what we used to do.”

Tenth-place Washington (25-28) pulled within a game of Detroit (26-27), which is 1.5 games behind the Charlotte Hornets and the Chicago Bulls in the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spots.

The Wizards will finish the NBA’s only three-game, three-day stretch at the fellow playoff contender Miami Heat on Saturday. The scheduling quirk comes because of the Utah games was originally snowed out in January.

“We play tomorrow?” coach Randy Wittman quipped. “I thought they quit doing three in a row.”

The Wizards entered the day ranked second in the league in forced turnovers, but have allowed 100 or more points in 33 of 53 games.

After forcing Utah into 23 giveaways, Washington got only 13 from Detroit, but held the visitors under 43 percent from the floor. The Wizards led by as many as 23 points.

“We’re doing the same thing, I just think having more energy, and we’re more committed, I guess,” Gortat said. “We don’t have room for mistakes.”

Tobias Harris scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting in his Detroit debut, three days after the Pistons acquired the forward from the Orlando Magic.

Reggie Jackson scored 16 points and Andre Drummond had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Pistons, who lost their fourth consecutive game.

“Early in the season we were a team that despite runs, we continued to fight,” Jackson said, “and now sometimes it just looks like we let it get to us, kind of like it pile up.”

Markieff Morris scored six points in 22 minutes in his Wizards debut — against twin brother Marcus’ Pistons — after arriving from the Phoenix Suns following a deal at trade deadline on Thursday.

“I mean, the guy has no idea what we’re doing,” Wittman said about Morris, who was only approved to play by the league an hour before tip-off. “That’s the hardest thing. You come out, no practice, couldn’t even do walk-through today.”

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