- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2019

With just under nine minutes to play, Moritz Wagner yelled out to no one in particular. The Wizards center had just made multiple defensive stops, including a block on Pistons center Andre Drummond. The whistle blew and Drummond was called for a foul.

It was a sequence that summed up most of the Wizards’ 115-99 win Monday over Detroit: Washington prevailed with effort. And then some.

For just the second time this season, the Wizards (2-4) held an opponent under 100 points. In the process, they picked up their second win. That’s likely not a coincidence.

The short-handed Pistons, who were without scorers Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, didn’t have the firepower to keep up offensively. Drummond was limited to just 15 points after averaging 22 points through his first seven outings. The Pistons shot just 41.5% from the field.

“That’s usually our motto in here: You keep a team under 100, you win those games,” said guard Bradley Beal, who led Washington with 22 points. “I feel like that still stands true to this day.”

Coming into Monday’s win, coach Scott Brooks had wanted to see how the Wizards responded from Saturday’s 131-109 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was Washington’s first blowout of the season, a game in which Brooks and Beal blasted the team’s lack of effort.

Until then, the Wizards had been a pesky team who prided themselves on being entertaining, even if they didn’t always get the result. They didn’t live up to that against Minnesota, which is why they were especially bothered by the defeat.

The Wizards were pleased in the way they responded. They gave up only 38 points in the second half. Drummond still had 24 rebounds — eight of which came on the offensive glass — but limited the damage. Washington had a total of eight blocks, four from Wagner.

Brooks said his team made the Pistons work for their shots.

“We have a group of guys that care,” Brooks said. “Some nights when you have things go wrong, it’s not because they don’t care, it’s just, I don’t know what happened. We haven’t played that way (against Minnesota) all year … One thing I love about it, we came back and took it on the chin, watched film and it was very positive criticism.”

Brooks, too, altered the starting lineup in an attempt to get off to a faster start. He brought Ish Smith off the bench and started Isaiah Thomas, who got his first start since March 14, 2018. The opportunity meant a lot for Thomas as the former All-NBA has been looking to re-establish his career after it was derailed by a hip injury over the past two seasons. The Wizards signed Thomas this offseason and he has averaged 16.3 points in three games.

It was the Wizards’ second unit, however, which broke the game open for the Wizards early on.

Smith led a reworked bench which included the return of C.J. Miles, who made his season debut after undergoing a foot injury. The Wizards were active on the glass and controlled the pace.

When some of the starters checked back in, the Wizards ballooned their lead even further. Beal drained a 3 and shortly after, Smith found first-rounder Rui Hachimura for an alley-oop as the Wizards led 54-37.

But Washington’s lead didn’t last. After a timeout, Detroit went on a 17-2 run to cut the deficit to four. Like their game against Minnesota, Washington failed to close out from beyond the arc. By halftime, with the Wizards only up 63-61, the Pistons had shot 60% (9-of-15) from deep.

The Pistons’ run, though, didn’t discourage the Wizards. In the second half, Washington came out with energy — so much so that Beal drove to the lane and tried to dunk so hard that the ball bounced off the rim and flew into the stands. But it was that type of effort that persisted, and Washington again went up double-digits in the third.

Forward Troy Brown was a part of that rally. He took over point guard duties in the third and helped Washington settle into a rhythm offensively. It was a role which Brown played last year, but before Monday, Brooks had yet to ask the 2018 first-rounder to play the position this season.

By the end of the night, Brown had 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in minutes. He was one of six Wizards in double figures.

“Sometimes when you have a team that doesn’t have a lot of experience, a loss is a loss if you don’t learn anything from it,” Brooks said. “When we have some losses, you gotta learn. And I thought the guys did. They responded and played well tonight.”

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