Pistons 90, Wizards 80
Detroit Pistons forward Ben Wallace, the player the Washington Wizards dealt to get center Ike Austin from the Orlando Magic four years ago, almost single-handedly snatched a much-needed victory from the Washington Wizards tonight.
Wallace, who says he always wants to play well against the team he came into the league with, grabbed 24 rebounds -- 11 fewer than the Wizards, overall -- and scored 17 points in the Pistons' 90-80 victory tonight before a capacity crowd at The Palace at Auburn Hills.
Wallace's scoring and rebounding totals were season highs and his rebounding figure surpassed the Wizards' opponent highs of 21, registered this season by Kenyon Martin of the New Jersey Nets and Jerome Williams of the Toronto Raptors. Wallace also blocked three shots.
Wallace punctuated his performance by making his first three-pointer of the season from the right sideline with 11 seconds left.
"Offensive juggernaut," Wallace joked. "It was [Michael Jordan's] last night being here, and I wanted to come out, play hard and compete against him. That shows the ultimate respect for a guy if you come out and try to beat him down his last night in the building."
This might not have been Jordan's or Washington's last game in Detroit. If somehow the Wizards can make the playoffs, they could face the Pistons in the first round. However, the Wizards aren't looking that far down the road. They have to rebound against the Miami Heat on Saturday night to stay afloat with a schedule that is about to get far more daunting.
"We still have a chance," said Jordan, who had 15 points and four rebounds.
The loss hurt Washington's chance to make up ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race and move into an eighth-place tie with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Wizards (31-34) fell a full game out of the final playoff spot and suffered yet another loss on the road, where they are just 9-21. Detroit won its fourth straight to improve to 41-23.
Led by Wallace, Detroit outrebounded the Wizards 53-35, and turned 14 of their offensive rebounds into 22 second-chance points. The Pistons also made eight three-pointers to none for Washington. Those were discrepancies too big to overcome, Coach Doug Collins said.
"We were out-scored by 33 points from the three-point line the other night and beat Orlando," Collins said. "We were out-scored by 24 tonight. Their shooting and their defense really were the difference."
The Wizards, sparked some by rare high-energy interior play provided by bruising 280-pound center Jahidi White, cut a 19-point, third-quarter deficit to eight in the fourth quarter after a dunk by White. But a three-pointer by another former Wizard, Richard Hamilton (19 points), extended Detroit's lead to 80-68 and swung the momentum.
Jerry Stackhouse led the Wizards with 24 points but he injured his left ankle late in the game on a drive to the basket when he collided with Wallace. The injury was not deemed serious and Stackhouse is expected to start Saturday night against the visiting Heat.
Bryon Russell added 10 points in a reserve role for Washington. White grabbed eight rebounds and scored six points in 17 minutes and forward Kwame Brown finished with seven rebounds. Point guard Tyronn Lue, in his first game back after missing the past six with a separated left shoulder, had 10 points and three assists in 28 minutes. Starting point guard Larry Hughes had just two points and an assist in 22 minutes.
Chauncey Billups led the Pistons with 25 points. He had four three-pointers. Corliss Williamson added 11 points, also in a reserve role.
The game got away from Washington in the third quarter, when the Pistons cranked up their intensity and turned their 46-35 halftime lead into a 73-56 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Detroit, not known for its offensive prowess, had no problems scoring in the first quarter as it shot 56 percent to take a 25-17 lead. A 12-2 burst early in the period got things going for the Pistons.