By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 26, 2006
The Washington Wizards should have been happy to return to Verizon Center, where a sold-out crowd welcomed them back to an arena where they -- and their star, guard Gilbert Arenas -- have played well this season. Coming home helped Arenas snap out of his funk, but it wasn't enough to reverse the Wizards' slide last night, and they fell to the Detroit Pistons, 115-111.
Arenas scored 28 points on 9-of-20 shooting as Washington (4-9) lost its fourth straight game. Detroit (9-5) extended its winning streak to six.
"I still consider this game as a road game. Even though we were playing at home, we played four games in five nights and we had to travel and got in late last night," said Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan, whose team lost in Memphis on Friday night. "I thought we still brought it. . . . Gil got his groove back a little bit -- a lot. I think the slump is over. Especially offensively."
The Wizards, who outshot and outrebounded the Pistons, did look good offensively. Forward Caron Butler had 25 points and Antawn Jamison scored 22 points as Washington shot nearly 50 percent (42 for 85).
The problem came at the other end of the court, where the Pistons got too many open shots from three-point range. Detroit made 11 of 24 shots from beyond the arc, and its players did a good job of penetrating and then passing to an open shooter on the perimeter. Tayshaun Prince (21 points) and Chauncey Billups (29 points) were a combined 6 for 9 on three-pointers.
"We didn't do a good job of containing the dribble," Jordan said. "They broke us down off the dribble from the top. We have to help. That team's been together for a long time. . . . They just know where each one is."
The Pistons also went to the free throw line 40 times, making 36 shots. Billups was 18 of 19 from the line, including 8 for 8 in the final 35 seconds of the game, to hold off a furious Wizards rally. Washington was 18 for 23 from the free throw line.
"The big line for us was the 40 free throws that a jump-shooting team had," Arenas said. "Especially with Chauncey having 19. . . . He's not really a big get-to-the-free-throw-line guy. He got 10 at the end, but still 40 to 23 is a big difference. Especially for an aggressive team, only getting to the free throw line 23 times, that means we're settling for jump shots."
Arenas struggled during the Wizards' three-game trip, making just 28.1 percent of his shots (18 for 64) in the three losses. The nadir came on Friday night in Memphis; he scored just three points, shot 1 of 12, committed four turnovers and didn't grab a single rebound for the first time this season.
"It's bound to happen," said Arenas, who had 10 assists and six rebounds against Detroit. "One for 12, that doesn't happen often. The last time it happened was two years ago at San Antonio. We found our rhythm."
It didn't take long for Arenas to find his shot against the Pistons. He missed his first shot, a short pull-up, but then made his next five (including three from beyond the arc) as Washington opened up an early lead. The Wizards led by nine points in the first period, but three-pointers from Billups and Prince in the final 90 seconds helped bring the Pistons to within one at the end of the quarter.
Detroit used a 16-2 run at the start of the second quarter to take control of the game. Reserve guard Carlos Delfino was twice left alone in the corner and made three-pointers, and after Flip Murray made two free throws, the Pistons led 50-37 with 6 minutes 36 seconds left until halftime. The Wizards were forced to play catch-up the rest of the way.
Several times, Washington drew close, but could never make the play to pull ahead. Jamison made a three-pointer from the right side to cut Detroit's advantage to one, 59-58, with 3.8 seconds left in the first half, but Richard Hamilton weaved his way through the Washington defense and launched a three-pointer just before the buzzer that banked in.
"It was a little bit disappointing," Jordan said of Hamilton's shot, which was reviewed by the officials. "He got it off in time, it was a three, but it was a travel before the shot."