DETROIT – After getting pushed around and pounded in Minnesota, the Wizards wanted to be the aggressors when they hosted the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.
That meant being physical on the perimeter and in the paint, winning the battle of the boards, forcing turnovers with relentless pressure and getting out on the break.
The upside of that more rugged approach was a wire-to-wire, 106-82 thrashing in which the Wizards snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Pistons and knocked them into so much disarray that Josh Smith was benched for the entire second half and lashed out afterward at Detroit Coach Maurice Cheeks. The downside was that Jan Vesely took the approach to the extreme and fouled out in just eight minutes – the fastest personal foul exit for any Wizards/Bullets player in at least 28 years, according to Basketball Reference.
“Nobody said anything, but I was shocked when they said it was his sixth foul,” Trevor Booker said of Vesely. “I was shocked because I knew he only played a few minutes.”
Booker, Marcin Gortat and Nene kept Pistons big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond below their rebounding averages and John Wall ran circles around Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings, but now the Wizards (13-14) will have to turn around two days later and have a similar performance against the same team that it soundly embarrassed at home. Now, the game will be on the Pistons’ home floor.
“They probably didn’t like that we beat them by 20-plus, so they’re definitely going to be coming harder in the next game,” said Bradley Beal, who scored 15 points only hours after suffering a bone bruise in his left knee. “They’ll come out with a lot more energy and be a lot more physical. I think we did a great job with hitting them first and they kind of fell back on their heels a little bit. I think in the next game, we definitely have to be prepared to brace ourselves because we know they are going to come back with a vengeance.”
The Wizards have lost their past four games at the Palace of Auburn Hills, including a 113-102 defeat in the season opener. When the teams met there last December, the Pistons claimed their most lopsided win in the history of the series, doling out a 32-point pummeling that still resonates with several players on the Wizards.
The Pistons (14-18) have lost their past two games by a combined 41 points, and four of five overall, which could mean that the team is spiraling into a funk or eager to snap out of it.
Washington has lost by at least 20 points twice this season and turned around to win the next game each time. The 22-point loss to the Timberwolves helped the Wizards get back on track with the style of play that Coach Randy Wittman has consistently demanded. The Wizards also shared the ball better than they have in six years, handing out a season-high 34 assists.
“I think they’re going to play the same way, but they’re going to play a lot harder,” John Wall said of the Pistons. “They’re going to try to make a statement and take care of home court advantage like we tried to do here after we lost a bad loss to Minnesota. We’ve just got to play the same way, keep moving the ball as a team and trusting each other.”
Smith took offense to a suggestion from Cheeks that he wasn’t playing hard in Washington but didn’t feel the need to address the situation face-to-face with his coach after the game. “To me it is over with,” he said. “But you know some people hold grudges longer than others. I don’t know. I’m not saying that he does. I’m not the type of person that really likes to go all the time in coach’s office, and have a one on one sit-down. I’m more of a team morale guy.”
Detroit is 6-5 at home against Eastern Conference foes but the Pistons have also lost four of five overall at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
“We don’t want to change anything about how we played. I hope we stay with the same focus. We did great things,” Nene said. “When we play united, we have a lot of power. When we start playing a little selfish, or we do things different. Basketball is a simple game. When we change our focus, we lose the game. It’s a fact.”
The Wizards have only posted two double-digit wins this season and have gone into overtime in the next game each time. After beating Orlando by 18 points earlier this month, the Wizards went on to lose at home to Milwaukee, the first of four straight losses. Ever since his 50-win comments after the win over the Magic, Gortat has always tried to stay level headed after big wins and that was no different after Saturday’s win – especially with the Pistons up next.
“It’s always tough. It’s always a tough challenge. The team that lost is going to come twice more pumped up,” Gortat said. “I say this way, they are going to try to get us back on their home court and we can’t get too comfortable with that. We got a win and we’ve got to carry that momentum to another game. if we’re going to continue to play like this, come out ready to play and focus, and we’re going to hit them first, we’re going to have a good chance to win the game.”