Washington Wizards lose preseason finale to Detroit Pistons, 98-92

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 12:18 AM

TOLEDO - The Washington Wizards will unlikely have many, if any, games ending with a lineup of Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, Nick Young, Adam Morrison and Lester Hudson. As it stands, only three of them are guaranteed spots on the opening day roster.

But Tuesday in their final tuneup before the regular season, Coach Flip Saunders went with a group hoping to either make the team or secure spots in his rotation.

While the Wizards would have preferred to end the preseason with a victory, their 98-92 loss to the Detroit Pistons at Huntington Center was more about making final evaluations and fine-tuning.

After finishing the exhibition season 3-4, losing three of their final four games, Saunders said his team has plenty of room for improvement. "Some good, some bad, some indifferent," he said, assessing his team's overall performance.

Saunders has a good sense of what his players can do, but he wasn't able to get a clear picture of what they all could do together after Al Thornton (sprained left ankle) and later Gilbert Arenas (mild groin strain) both came down with injuries during the preseason.

Saunders experimented with a three-guard lineup in the first three games and it proved to be his most effective pairing, with John Wall, Kirk Hinrich and Arenas playing well off each other.

"No question, we're going to be as good as anybody in our league in our guard spots," Saunders said. "That's going to be a real positive."

Thornton, who was expected to start the season at small forward while Josh Howard recovers from left knee surgery, got his first start of the preseason on Tuesday but didn't leave much of an impression. He missed all five of his shots and finished with one point.

"I was very winded," he said. "The time off, I need to get my legs back under me and get my conditioning back up."

Wall finished Tuesday's game with 13 points and seven assists. But he had his struggles in defending Pistons point guard Rodney Stuckey (game-high 34 points), picking up two fouls in the first three minutes. He also committed a preseason-high six turnovers.

"I have to keep my turnovers down," Wall said. "Six turnovers is too many. If you have seven assists and six turnovers, that's really just one assist."

Hinrich tied Andray Blatche with a team-high 17 points, making all four of his three-point attempts in the first half. Pistons reserve Ben Gordon, Hinrich's former teammate in Chicago, said the Wizards should benefit from Hinrich's presence.

"He was one of those guys that led by example," Gordon said of Hinrich. "He played hard every night. It was great to play with a guy like that."

Booker was a spark plug off the bench, grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds in 18 minutes. JaVale McGee had 10 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocked shots and Young contributed 13 points. After sitting out the entire game against New York, Morrison was given some extended minutes in his final audition for a roster spot. He finished with a preseason-high eight points, making his first two field goals.

The Wizards had planned on entering the regular season with 13 or 14 players, but President Ernie Grunfeld said before the game that the team could keep 15 since contracts won't be fully guaranteed until early January. Saunders isn't sure which group he will open the season with, but the Wizards certainly have time to settle things before the season opener on Oct. 28 in Orlando.

"It's unusual," Saunders said. "It's almost like, you're geared up, you're going through things and it's almost like going to a bowl game. For us, we have more time off than we had for training camp before we played our first exhibition game."

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