By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 2, 2008
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Nov. 1 -- The Washington Wizards were fully prepared for how the Detroit Pistons would attack them Saturday night with a proven veteran core of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace.
But Wálter Herrmann? Really?
Indeed, the ponytail wearing third-year forward from Argentina, who resembles Fabio, helped the Pistons pull away from the scrappy Wizards for a 117-109 victory at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Herrmann, who was not a regular of the Detroit rotation last season under former coach Flip Saunders, is most certainly in new coach Michael Curry's plans and it showed as Herrmann led all Detroit reserves with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in 23 very effective minutes.
Even as the Wizards hung around in the game's later stages, Herrmann put them away with a pair of clutch three-pointers in the final 3 minutes 31 seconds. After hitting the second one, Herrmann was serenaded by chants of his name.
"He came in and hit some big shots," said Wizards forward Caron Butler, who finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. "He had a monster night and you have to tip your hat off to him. He did some of that when he was in Charlotte and that's why the made the move to go get him so, give him credit."
After slow start, the Wizards used a 16-0 second-quarter blitz that was keyed by ferocious defense to take a 52-51 half time lead, but after Wallace made a 16-foot turnaround jump shot early in the third, Detroit never trailed again.
Still, the Wizards, who shot 51.9 percent, hovered within striking distance until Herrmann's big shots. Reserve guard Nick Young was brilliant, scoring on drives to the basket, jump shots and one spectacular dunk en route to 23 points, while Antawn Jamison finished with 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting.
The difference was Detroit's 49-24 rebounding edge and 28-9 advantage in second-chance points. Wallace (12 rebounds), Herrmann and Jason Maxiell (seven) often overmatched the smaller lineup Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan went with for much of the game.
Etan Thomas (five points, two rebounds) started at center and played 18 minutes; he was backed up mainly by the 6-foot-9 Darius Songaila (eight points, four assists and one rebound in 28 minutes). Without a 7-footer on the floor to protect the basket for the Wizards, Detroit repeatedly pounded the ball into the post to Wallace.
However, a lineup consisting of Young, Songaila, Jamison, Butler and Juan Dixon (nine points on four-of-five shooting) also sparked the second-quarter run and persuaded Jordan to stay mostly small in the second half.
Another factor was that forward-center Andray Blatche, who is 6-foot-11 with long arms, played only four minutes -- all in the first half -- and earned a spot in Jordan's doghouse. Shortly after former Wizard Kwame Brown blew past Blatche and for an easy layup early in the second quarter, he was replaced by Thomas never to return.
"You give guys a chance and the opportunity is there for them," Jordan said. "If you give great effort, you get the benefit of the doubt. If there's not enough effort there and not enough sincere play, you are not going to play."
Jordan was encouraged by his team's overall performance however, and particularly liked the way his squad executed at both ends of the floor during the second quarter push.
"It was a big improvement from game one and that's what we're looking at, improvement," Jordan said. "I thought it was a giant leap as far as improvement. For us to score 109 points against a very, very good defensive team, that means we are making strides. I thought our defense was very good at times, we turned them over during the first half but Wálter Herrmann was the difference. He hit big shot after big shot after big shot."
Wizards Notes: After playing nine minutes in Wednesday's opener, rookie center JaVale McGee did not get into the game. Reserve guard Dee Brown also did not play after seeing action in the opener.