A great game by a great player allowed the Detroit Pistons to overcome a sizable deficit and defeat the Washington Wizards, 112-107, last night before 17,072 at MCI Center.

Pistons forward and Reston native Grant Hill scored 15 of his game-high 39 points in the fourth quarter to rally Detroit from a 16-point, third-quarter deficit, the biggest lead the Wizards (12-26) have squandered this season. Hill made 15 of 20 shots.

"He's great player," Wizards Coach Gar Heard said of Hill. "I thought Juwan [Howard] played him as well as anybody this year.

"The thing that makes him so devastating is that he developed an outside jumper. You get up on him, he goes around you. You don't, he hits the jump shot."

The loss was Washington's third straight--second in a row to Detroit--and sixth in its last seven games. The red-hot Pistons (21-15), meantime, won for the ninth time in 10 games.

"It's really good to win a game when you come back like that," Hill said. "I was just taking my time.

"I really was taking what the defense gave me. I'm expecting to make those shots now."

Hill scored 12 of Detroit's 14 points in a heated fourth-quarter stretch in which the Wizards seemed to have an answer for nearly every one of Hill's baskets, even though they were without guard Mitch Richmond, their leading scorer.

Richmond reinjured his bruised ribs and did not play in the second half.

After Hill's baseline jumper gave Detroit a 107-105 lead with 1 minute 7 seconds left, Washington point guard Rod Strickland missed a spinning, left-handed jump shot in traffic and Detroit grabbed the rebound.

Guard Jerry Stackhouse (27 points) was fouled and made 1 of 2 foul shots to put the Pistons up 108-105 with 9.8 seconds left, giving the Wizards an opportunity to tie the score with a three-pointer.

But Tracy Murray's attempt missed and Detroit closed out the game.

"We had a chance to win the ball game," Heard said. "It was nip and tuck all the way. We missed a couple shots [and] they made a couple shots.

"They went to Grant Hill when they needed baskets, and he came through for them."

Howard played solid defense on Hill but was caught on the bad end of a hot night for the Pistons star.

"Grant is a tough matchup," Strickland said. "We played him pretty much one on one."

Howard (13 points) opened the game looking as if he was ready for a showdown similar to the one he and Hill staged in the Wizards' loss to Detroit on Friday, in which Hill scored 30 points and Howard 20. But after scoring eight first-quarter points, Howard failed to make a field goal the rest of the game.

Strickland led the Wizards with a season-high 27 points. He had five assists and four rebounds.

The Wizards followed their 26-turnover performance in Friday's loss with 25 turnovers last night. The Pistons turned those miscues into 25 points. Strickland, Howard and backup point guard Chris Whitney had five turnovers apiece.

"When we turn it over, they get a lot of layups and you can't defend layups," Heard said.

"We have 20-plus turnovers, they're going to get 10 to 15 layups."

The Wizards shot 59 percent in the first two quarters to take a 61-51 halftime lead. It was the most points Washington scored in a first half this season.

Strickland and Howard combined for 25 points and Washington's bench outplayed Detroit's reserves. The Wizards also dominated the boards, 26-12.

Washington needed the all-around effort to offset Hill, who scored 13 of his 16 first-half points in the first quarter. Forward Christian Laettner added 15 points for Detroit in the half.

Stackhouse was held to 10 points in the first half by Richmond, but Washington's leading scorer could not play in the second half after re-aggravating his bruised right ribs late in the second quarter.

X-rays were negative, but Heard said Richmond is doubtful to play in Monday afternoon's game against visiting Boston.

"For them to lose Mitch, it's like us losing Grant Hill," Pistons Coach Alvin Gentry said.

Murray, who scored nine points in the second quarter--four on powerful inside drives--replaced Richmond, a move Heard said he would make if the team needed offense.

Murray had problems defending Stackhouse, but with Richmond out and rookie guard Richard Hamilton home in Pennsylvania because of his grandmother's death, Heard had little choice.

The Wizards opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run to go up 69-53 on a dunk by center Jahidi White (14 points, seven rebounds).

But Stackhouse and Hill chipped away at Washington's lead by combining for 20 of the Pistons' 26 points in the period. Stackhouse took advantage of Richmond's absence to score 12 in the third period, leading a charge that brought Detroit to 83-77 entering the fourth period.

Hill opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer, then backup point guard John Crotty made a jump shot to bring the Pistons to 83-82.

Stackhouse gave Detroit its first lead since early in the first quarter on a dunk that made the score 86-85.