This was a game the Washington Wizards literally gave away.
The Wizards committed 26 turnovers, highlighted by Tracy Murray's errant pass that Grant Hill turned into the victory-sealing basket in Detroit's 105-98 victory tonight before 16,008 at The Palace.
"Turnovers killed us," said Murray, who had five points in a reserve role.
The Pistons scored 34 points off Washington's turnovers in a game that otherwise was hotly contested. Hill (30 points) and Wizards forward Juwan Howard (20 points) staged an entertaining head-to-head battle, as did Wizards guard Mitch Richmond (team-high 29 points) and Pistons guard Jerry Stackhouse (game-high 32 points).
Every Wizards player committed at least one turnover--point guard Rod Strickland had a game-high five--in the Wizards' fifth loss in six games. Detroit (20-15) won for the eighth time in nine games.
"This was a game that we had a great opportunity to win," Wizards Coach Gar Heard said. "You make 27, 30 turnovers against a good team you're not going to win that ballgame. We turned it over too many times and we turned it over at crucial times."
Down by four with 1 minute 16 seconds left, Murray came into the game for center Ike Austin (15 points, nine rebounds). Shortly after taking a pass, he threw the ball behind Strickland and Detroit took possession. It was the sixth of Washington's seven fourth-quarter turnovers.
Hill buried a 12-foot baseline jumper to make the score 102-96 with 54.9 seconds left. A jump shot by Richmond with 27.2 seconds remaining cut it to four, but Washington (12-25) couldn't get any closer.
"We gave them 30 extra opportunities to score . . . but we still had opportunities to win down the stretch," Richmond said. "Then we turned it over."
Heard played down the news of former Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan possibly joining the team's front office as a distraction, citing the Wizards' competitive effort.
"They focused on the game," Heard said of his team. "They came out ready to play. . . . We haven't even talked about [Jordan's possible involvement]. We came here to play a basketball game. Until it happens we're not going to have anybody on this team talking about it. Until it happens, we're going to concentrate on what we have to do."
Other than the abundance of their poorly timed fourth-quarter turnovers, the worst of the blunders came after the Wizards' 7-0 run to start the third quarter, which gave them a 56-53 lead.
From that point, they committed five consecutive turnovers--nine in the period--and made just two of their next seven shots. That series of blunders allowed Detroit to use an 11-0 run and take an 81-71 lead into the fourth quarter.
"Five of the seven times down the court we turned it over," Heard said. "It was like every time we make a run we turn it over. And every turnover seemed like they turned into a fast-break basket."
The turnovers were the difference. Washington shot 53.9 percent and outrebounded the Pistons 42-34.
The Pistons outscored Washington 22-7 in fast-break points, mainly off turnovers, and turned over the ball just 15 times. Other than lighting up the Wizards on offense Stackhouse recorded seven of Detroit's 17 steals. Teammate Jerome Williams came off the bench and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
"When we turned it over they got baskets," Strickland said. "We made a lot of silly turnovers."
Richmond played a team-high 39 minutes because regular backup Richard Hamilton returned home to Pennsylvania after his grandmother died. Hamilton's status is uncertain for Saturday's game against the Pistons at MCI Center.
Washington used a 13-0 run early in the second quarter to narrow a 16-point deficit to 53-49 at halftime. Sparked by a mix of starters and reserves, the Wizards began the run with a short jumper by Howard and capped it with a short hook shot by backup center Austin to bring Washington to 40-37.
Before the surge, the Pistons scored 11 straight points going back to the first quarter, to go up 38-22.
The Pistons took advantage of seven turnovers to take a 33-22 first-quarter lead.
Wizards Notes: Two television crews from Chicago were in attendance looking to see if Jordan was in attendance. . . .
Fans coming to Saturday's game at MCI Center are being asked to donate a new or clean coat for charity. Donors will receive a ticket to a future Wizards game.
Detroit Pistons vs. Wizards
* Where: MCI Center.
* When: 7 p.m.
* Television: WBDC-50.
* Radio: WWRC-570.
* Tickets: Available.
* Records: Wizards 12-25, Pistons 20-15.
* Injuries: Wizards--G Laron Profit (left knee tendinitis), F Lorenzo Williams (recovering from knee surgery), C Calvin Booth (strained right hamstring) are on the injured list; Pistons--F Jermaine Jackson (right knee tendinitis), F Mikki Moore (back spasms) are on the injured list.