By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 14, 2010; D07
Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Amid suspensions, injuries and myriad other off-court distractions, the Washington Wizards figured their circumstances couldn't possibly worsen. Yet after a 99-90 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night at Verizon Center, they sank to new depths.
Playing their fourth game without suspended guard Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards stumbled against a team that entered losers of 13 in a row -- the Pistons had not won since Dec. 12 -- as they failed to get Coach Flip Saunders his 600th career win. Washington (12-24) has lost three of four and seven of nine.
The Wizards also played without reserve forward Andray Blatche, whom Saunders suspended for a game for conduct detrimental to the team, and injured guard-forward Mike Miller. Out since Nov. 21 with a strained right calf muscle, Miller made his return in Friday's 104-97 victory over Orlando but aggravated the injury in Sunday's 115-110 loss to New Orleans.
"When you play a team that's on a losing streak, as I told our guys going in, you've got to come out with energy at the beginning, even if you're not scoring," Saunders said. "You've got to let them know tonight's not going to be [their] night. We just weren't mentally alert."
Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 31 points and 10 rebounds, but he didn't get much help. Randy Foye (20 points, 10 assists) and Caron Butler (14 points) were the only other Wizards to score in double figures.
Butler missed 10 of 17 shots, was 0 for 2 from three-point range and failed to get to the foul line. The two-time all-star spent Monday night and Tuesday morning at Inova Fairfax Hospital, where an uncle was being treated for a serious eye injury stemming from an accident with a nail gun.
"There's a lot going on, but I don't want to blame it on that," Saunders said.
The Wizards had few solutions for Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva, who came off the bench to score a team-high 23 points, including several three-pointers down the stretch before an announced crowd of 13,544. Villanueva finished 5 of 6 from three-point range and had nine rebounds.
Former Wizard Richard Hamilton added 19 for the Pistons (12-25), who are one of four teams in the Eastern Conference with a worse record than Washington. Hamilton missed 15 of 23 shots, but he had seven assists and scored several baskets in the final minutes to keep the Washington at bay.
"We knew the importance of this game, and we knew in order for us to win, we just had to come out and just play with more energy than what they did," Jamison said, "and for some reason we just couldn't do it as a team. I think that's the main reason why we didn't come up with the victory tonight. They outhustled us. They outplayed us. . . . Especially right now, you can't afford to have that take place."
The Wizards came back from a six-point deficit early in the fourth quarter and drew to 79-78 with 6 minutes 53 seconds remaining, but Detroit got consecutive three-pointers from Villanueva and Hamilton's 17-foot jumper to bump the lead to nine with 4:43 left. Washington did not get closer than five points the rest of the way.
The Wizards found themselves trailing at the half, 48-38, after a second quarter in which they shot 4 for 21 and scored 11 points. It was yet another instance where the Wizards played a poor second quarter and had to mount a comeback that fell short.
"Tonight was a tough one. We've just got to keep grinding it out," said Foye, who became the first Wizards player other than Arenas to have at least 20 points and 10 assists since Larry Hughes in 2004.
"We've got to come every day ready to play. Disappointed in the loss tonight, but we have a lot of games to go. We've got to try to put this one behind us, learn from it and move on."