The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Wizards capitalize on Andre Drummond’s foul trouble to top Pistons

John Wall attacked the heart of the Pistons’ defense Wednesday, and was rewarded for his aggressiveness with 16 free throw attempts. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
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The scouting report on Andre Drummond that circulated in the Washington Wizards pregame locker room included a factoid they sought to exploit whenever necessary Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons: Drummond’s mediocre pick-and-roll defense.

The flaw was evident immediately in the Wizards’ 107-103 victory. It took Drummond just five minutes and 16 seconds to commit his second foul and begin a night mired in foul trouble. The center finished with just two points and five rebounds in 23 minutes.

“I don’t think we went to the game looking to get him in foul trouble,” Wizards forward Paul Pierce said. “We were just aggressive.”

Intentional or not, Drummond’s absence altered the expected course of the game. The Wizards were concerned about Detroit’s colossal front line of Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith — a trio that dominates the boards and deters dribble penetration. But those strengths were mitigated without Drummond.

At 6 foot 11, Drummond is one of the sport’s top rebounders and rim protectors, and Washington capitalized in his absence. Washington entered the night 19th in the league in rebounding, but out-rebounded the Pistons, 46-39, and continuously attacked the rim to compile 33 free-throw attempts.

John Wall was the instigator. The Wizards point guard drew Drummond’s second foul and tirelessly ambushed the Pistons’ defense. The aggression yielded 16 free-throw attempts. He made 13 of them. The Pistons, on the other hand, shot 22 free throws.

Pistons Coach Stan Van Gundy, however, cited an alternate reason for Wall’s success. He blamed his team’s defense.

“I thought we were a little undisciplined,” Van Gundy said. “I mean, he was just full speed out of control, throwing up stuff that really did not have much chance of going in. We kept fouling him. We were a little undisciplined there, but we had trouble getting back, which we should not He is fast as hell, but that is why you have to have everybody back. It is exactly what put them back in the game — getting to the free-throw line.”

Regardless, Washington now ranks 10th in the NBA with 25.7 free-throw attempts per game after finishing tied for 25th last year with an average of 20.9.

“That’s been one of our big plusses, I think, thus far this year … getting to the free throw line,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “We talked about that being one of our goals with the team this year, to get to the free-throw line more and I’ve been pleased with that.”


Through seven games, the Pistons averaged 91.9 points per game and had failed to reach the 100-point mark. That changed Wednesday, when they dropped 103 points on the Wizards, including 59 in the first half thanks to the efforts of Brandon Jennings (21 points in the first half) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12 points).

“I wasn’t real pleased at halftime defensively,” Wittman said. “We weren’t sharp. We weren’t aggressive. We didn’t dictate play. They dictated play.” 

Washington regrouped after halftime. It focused on being more aggressive in pick-and-roll defense with an emphasis on challenging Jennings — and yielded 42 second-half points.

“A win is a win despite our defense,” Pierce said. “We still have to do a better job. Detroit really hasn’t put up 100 points. We make it hard on ourselves sometimes. We dig in for short periods of time and then we slack off on defense. It’s something we’ve got to be able to do for 48 minutes. We had our run at the end of the second quarter and we played our defense in spurts and it can’t be like that.


Protecting home court is atop the Wizards’ list of objectives. They are adamant that they improve on the 23-23 record they posted at Verizon Center between the regular season and playoffs last year. Wall said earlier this week 30 home victories is the goal.

So far, they are meeting their expectations. The Wizards are 3-0 in the District for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign, despite closer-than-anticipated contests against three of the NBA’s lower-echelon teams in the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers and Pistons.