Trevor Booker rushed to the rim for a possible rebound and collided with Marcin Gortat near the end of the first quarter in the Wizards’ 104-98 loss to the Detroit Pistons. Booker started hopping on his right foot, initially unable to put any pressure on his left ankle. He hobbled up and down the floor for a few more minutes until he lifted his hand and signaled for Coach Randy Wittman to take him out of the game.
With head athletic trainer Eric Waters trailing, Booker walked to the locker room and never returned after going scoreless with one assist in six minutes. Booker is questionable for Monday’s game against the Philadelphia and his injury disrupted Wittman’s tight, eight-man rotation, which contributed to three straight wins.
Replaced by Nene last week in Chicago after struggling as a starter, Booker was re-energized by his role as the primary front court backup. Booker helped limit Bulls reserve Taj Gibson to just eight points in a 102-88 win, had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds in the Wizards’ upset win over the Miami Heat and had 12 points and seven rebounds in the rematch with the Bulls. So, when he went down, the Wizards experienced a drop-off in the energy department.
“Book has been playing very well for us lately,” John Wall said. “Making shots, and just playing with his energy and rebounding the ball. That kind of hurt us a little bit.”
Wittman called on Jan Vesely to fill Booker’s role off the bench and the 7-foot forward from the Czech Republic contributed seven points – and helped the Wizards build a 54-46 halftime lead. But Vesely, who hadn’t appeared in the previous three games, only had one point in the second half and two rebounds for the entire game.
Booker’s absence was certainly felt on the glass, where the Pistons’ front line of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith combined to grab 31 rebounds – four fewer than the entire Wizards team.
“Rebounding was critical with this team and we allowed them to, especially in the second half, just beat us up on the boards,” Wittman said. “Offensive rebounds, we just lost everything against this team and we can’t afford to.”
When the Pistons went small after Drummond got in foul trouble in the second half, Smith was able to take advantage of his speed, athleticism and perimeter shooting to score 20 of his 22 points with Nene and Vesely chasing him around. Detroit outscored the Wizards, 58-44, in the second half.
The Wizards (19-20) still had numerous opportunities to win the game despite Booker’s early exit but found it hard to summon the level of play that allowed them to string together three consecutive wins. They had played some of their best basketball of the season but hit an inevitable wall against the Pistons.
“When we were playing the Heat you’d think we’d get cold at some point. You know we didn’t miss a shot and the last game [against Chicago] was kind of the same way,” Bradley Beal said. “In order for us to be a great, elite, team in this league we got to be able to bring it every night on both ends of the floor. Even if the offense isn’t there, we got to get more stops on defense. If it’s a low-scoring game, it’s a low-scoring game, but we definitely got to do a better job of retaliating on defense.”
Trevor Ariza said the Wizards are capable of consistently producing outcomes similar to last week, when they went 3-1: “I don’t think it’s hard to play at the level we’ve been playing at. We’ve shown we can do it. We just got to continue to do it. Continue to lock in and execute.”