Pistons 94, Wizards 90
Detroit Pistons guard Richard Hamilton spent all but two minutes of the fourth quarter on the bench watching Jerry Stackhouse, the player the Wizards swapped him for over the summer, spectacularly rally Washington to force overtime.
In the extra five-minute period, though, it was Hamilton who delivered the critical blows that led Detroit to a hard-fought 94-90 victory last night before a sold-out MCI Center crowd of 20,173.
Hamilton (16 points) scored the first six of the Pistons' 10 overtime points, while Washington committed three turnovers and scored just six points in the same span in its final home game before a six-game road swing against Western Conference foes.
"He came in with fresh legs," Wizards Coach Doug Collins said of Hamilton. "He got some open looks and he made them."
Said Hamilton: "I never lose focus. I just went out there and stayed aggressive and stayed confident with my shot."
Washington (32-35) fell into a tie for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with the Milwaukee Bucks, who hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Wizards should they finish the season with identical records.
Collins contends Washington is going to need to win 41 games to get into the playoffs, meaning it must finish the final 15 games with a 9-6 mark.
Detroit (42-24), which defeated the Wizards last week at home and won the season series 3-1, maintained its hold on the top playoff seed in the East. The Pistons improved to 5-0 in overtime.
"They're just a better team," Stackhouse said. "We were out there trying to do what we had to do. They picked their defense up a little bit. We just allowed them to get too many second shots. You can't beat a team if you give them three or four second shots at the basket. That was the difference in the game."
The Pistons simply outworked the Wizards in overtime, getting two offensive rebounds that led to three second-chance points. The first possession of the overtime set the tone when Ben Wallace saved a missed shot by Hamilton as it was going out of bounds, flipped it to Cliff Robinson, who swung it to Hamilton, who buried an 18-footer.
Wallace, the ex-Wizard, finished with 20 rebounds -- his fourth straight game with 20 or more rebounds. Last week against the Wizards he posted a season-high 24.
Stackhouse scored 14 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter but got only one shot in overtime, making a jumper with nine seconds left to bring the Wizards to 93-90. Robinson sealed the victory by making one of two free throws with nine seconds left to put Detroit up by four.
Michael Jordan added 23 points and 11 rebounds, but he had his only two turnovers in the overtime period and had his only shot rejected.
Wallace, who had a game-high seven blocked shots, blocked a spinning layup attempt by Jordan with 32 seconds left after the Wizards had pulled to 91-88 after a 19-foot jump shot by forward Christian Laettner (12 points, season-high 18 rebounds).
"I was just trying to make contact and get to the free throw line," Jordan said. "They called it a block. It was a hard-fought game."
Said Wallace: "In overtime Mike is looking to take over the game. I just wanted to get my body in front of him and get him to take a tough shot. He double-clutched it a little bit and I was able to get a hand on it. In overtime the players have to go out and make plays. The ref's not going get in there and make calls like that. Vintage Mike usually gets that call but it wasn't a foul, though."
Guard Chauncey Billups led the Pistons with 26 points, but he had plenty of help. Detroit's bench, one of the deepest and most talented in the league, outscored Washington's reserves 38-5. Washington's Tyronn Lue (all five of the Wizards' bench points) and Bryon Russell were the only backups to play more than six minutes. Three of Detroit's four backups played at least 23 minutes.
"We've got to get better in a hurry," Stackhouse said. "We can't allow somebody to come in and get 20 rebounds. We've got to grow up. We've got four, five, six guys playing extremely hard but we've got to get contributions from everybody."