By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 3, 2008
The last time the Detroit Pistons had a bench as deep and talented as the one they have now, Mehmet Okur, Mike James and Lindsey Hunter helped the franchise capture the 2003-04 NBA championship.
Last night, in Detroit's 106-93 victory over the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center, the primary difference was Detroit's 33-8 advantage in bench scoring.
Much of the damage was done by center Jason Maxiell, who threw down several vicious dunks and finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, and former Wizard Jarvis Hayes, who scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, making three three-pointers.
Detroit's reserves helped seize control with a 31-20 second quarter, which the Pistons opened with a 10-0 run.
It was the 10th straight win for the Pistons (25-7) and demonstrated why it may be premature to assume that the road to the NBA Finals will go through Boston.
While the Wizards (15-15) continue to reinvent themselves in the absence of all-star Gilbert Arenas, the Pistons play with chemistry and swagger associated with teams with championship aspirations.
Seven Pistons scored in double figures including guard Richard Hamilton, another former Wizard who finished with a team-high 20 points along with nine assists and seven rebounds. Detroit shot 48.7 percent and answered any Wizards push with a decisive run.
"We've got a pretty good thing going on up here, I'm telling you," said Hayes, who is part of bench unit that entered last night's game averaging 27.4 points per game. "We've got experience, we've got talent and we're pretty deep. It feels good to be a part of it. I'm real comfortable."
The Wizards hoped to get a boost from the return of guard Antonio Daniels, who missed seven games with a sprained ligament in his right knee, and Daniels did his part with 18 points in 36 minutes.
Caron Butler added 22 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists for the Wizards and Antawn Jamison finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. Washington, however, was no match for Detroit's balance, depth and timely playmaking.
"There is a reason why this has been one of the best teams in the league for years now," Jamison said. "They did a great job of executing offensively and defensively, they took us out of our comfort zone."
The Wizards led 27-26 after one quarter but the game's flow changed noticeably when Pistons Coach Flip Saunders started turning to his reserves early in the second period.
Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan was less thrilled with what he saw from his team.
"Your bench needs to come in and give you a shot in the arm a little bit, whether you're going well or you're not going well," he said. "They've got to come in and up the ante a little bit. We just didn't have that, but even the starters didn't have that after a while."
The Wizards have been competitive after opening the season with five losses. They have dealt with injuries to key players but only four of their wins have come against teams that currently have a winning record.
Jordan viewed last night's game as an opportunity to see where his team stacks up with one of the best squads in the league.
"I told the team, if this is a test -- and it is because when you play the best team in the league; especially right now, they're the best team -- then you have to see how you respond to them," Jordan said. "And if this was a test, I give us a C or C-minus."