AUBURN HILLS, Mich., April 6 -- It would be laughable if it weren't so painful, the way the defending champion Detroit Pistons have dominated the Washington Wizards in recent years. The Pistons have toyed with the Wizards all season, giving them a false sense of hope, only to deliver the crushing blow in the end. Be it a Chauncey Billups three-pointer, a Rasheed Wallace dunk or a Ben Wallace rejection, the Pistons haven't given the Wizards much more than agony.
Playing without all-star forward Antawn Jamison, the Wizards made their fourth and (they hope) final trip into town and lost, 105-93, at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Pistons joined the Miami Heat as the only teams to sweep the Wizards this season. "They are just a better team. We got beat by a better team," Coach Eddie Jordan said after the Wizards (41-33) lost their 10th consecutive game against the Pistons. The Wizards haven't beaten them since Dec. 4, 2002.
Wizards center Etan Thomas, left, swats Carlos Arroyo's shot. The Wizards, playing without Antawn Jamison, drop their third-straight game, 105-93, to Detroit on Wednesday.
Combination of Wizards wins and Nets losses that will clinch a playoff spot for the Wizards.
The Wizards are one game behind the Bulls for the last home-court advantage spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Friday, 8 p.m.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., April 6 -- Keeping with their plan not to use him in back-to-back games, the Wizards rested all-star forward Antawn Jamison for Wednesday night's game against the Detroit Pistons. After missing 12 of the previous 14 games with right knee tendinitis, Jamison returned to score 30 points against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. Coach Eddie Jordan said Jamison didn't have any complications with his knee. "He feels okay. He's not great, but he doesn't feel a lot of pain," Jordan said. "We've got a plan. We're looking at limiting his back-to-back games until we see that he feels very comfortable. Maybe in a week or so."
The Wizards have two more sets of back-to-back games the rest of the season, including Friday at Indiana and Saturday against Philadelphia at MCI Center. Jordan hadn't decided which game Jamison will play.
Jamison expected to play a limited number of minutes, but he played 37 minutes in the Wizards' 116-108 loss to the Celtics. "There's always a suggested time, but if the player feels good, he feels good," Jordan said. "And if he's going good, he's going to play."
Jamison made 9 of 18 shots and scored at least 30 points for the fifth time this season -- and the first time since Feb. 14 at New Orleans. The Wizards are 2-3 when Jamison scores at least 30. . . .
Entering Wednesday night's game, guard Larry Hughes had shot 6 for 32 in the two games since he sprained his left elbow. Hughes said he doesn't plan to rest the arm for the rest of the season and Jordan has no intention of sitting him. "He's doing other things for us. I know he's not the Larry that we're used to before the injury," Jordan said. "It's going to be a gut call for me. I'm looking at it. I'm observing it and starters get a little bit more leeway than guys off the bench." Hughes was injured in the fourth quarter of the Wizards' win in Orlando last Friday. Jordan added that the injury shouldn't be aggravated through playing. . . .
Point guard Gilbert Arenas broke Moses Malone's franchise record for free throws attempted in a game with 25 against the Celtics. Malone attempted 23 free throws for the Washington Bullets on Nov. 21, 1986. Arenas tied Malone for free throws made in a game with 21. Malone set that mark on Dec. 29, 1986.
-- Michael Lee
Guard Larry Hughes, playing his best game since spraining his left elbow last week, had a game-high 28 points for the Wizards. But Hughes blamed himself for the Wizards' recent three-game slide that has dropped them from fourth in the Eastern Conference to fifth after Chicago beat Orlando Wednesday night.
The Wizards trail the Bulls by one game for the fourth seed in the East and hold just a one-game lead over the Indiana Pacers, who defeated Cleveland Wednesday night and will host the Wizards on Friday. "I put that on myself," said Hughes, who shot just 6 of 32 and scored a combined 21 points in the Wizards' previous two losses, to Indiana and Boston. "I feel like, really, if I play better, then we win those two games at home. I didn't play as well as I needed to play -- regardless of being hurt or not."
Jamison sat one night after scoring 30 points in 37 minutes against Boston. Jordan said Jamison didn't have any problems with his right knee but the Wizards plan to bring him back slowly. He added that Jamison likely won't be available for Friday's game against the Pacers.
Even with Jamison, the Wizards probably would not have had much of a chance against the Pistons, who outrebounded the Wizards 47-31 and had 26 second-chance points. Ben Wallace led seven Pistons in double figures with 21 points. He also matched the rebounding total of the Wizards' starting five with 18 and added two blocked shots.
The Wizards battled back from a 22-point third quarter deficit to get within 72-66 when reserve point guard Steve Blake made a three-pointer with 11 seconds left in the third quarter. But the Pistons (47-27) went on a 14-3 run over the next five minutes to push the Wizards back for good. "This was a game that really got away from us," Jordan said.
With just eight games remaining, the Wizards have to be careful that the rest of the season doesn't get away from them, too. "We've got a young team. We're going through it. We're getting hammered. Eventually, we're going to get tired of it, and start fighting back," point guard Gilbert Arenas said after scoring 19 points. "Sometimes, you got to wake up in the morning, watch 'SportsCenter,' see how bad you got dunked on and beat up on and you come back with a different attitude."
Arenas said that playing without Jamison wasn't the only problem for a team that also is missing center Brendan Haywood (broken left thumb), swingman Jarvis Hayes (fractured right patella) and veteran shooter Anthony Peeler (right knee tendinitis). "We miss everybody. We need all of our guys," Arenas said.
But keeping with the injury theme, reserve forward Laron Profit, who has started four games this season, suffered a mild right ankle sprain late in the fourth quarter. Profit, who had eight points off the bench, said he won't know how he feels until Thursday morning.
"You can't put pressure on being in the fourth spot," Hughes said, shaking his head. "I'm not really worried about spots. I'm looking to get there and get our bodies back. It doesn't matter who we play. I know it's good to have home court [but] whether we've got home court or not, we've got to win, regardless. Are we saying we're not going to win in the first round because we don't get home court?"
Maybe, if the Wizards slipped to seventh and had to see the Pistons again.