Washington limited Detroit beneath the glass and kept rebound-devouring center Andre Drummond from impacting the game despite his 16 boards. Guard Jordan McRae led the Wizards with eight rebounds, and center Ian Mahinmi, who scored 21 points on 9-for-10 shooting, didn’t forget his defensive roots as he added a game-high three blocks. The defense was so keyed in that diminutive point guard Ish Smith leaped for a game-sealing block in the closing seconds.
The defensive chokehold held Detroit to 42.7 percent shooting, and it helped the Wizards overcome a sloppy game in which they committed 20 turnovers that led to 27 points for the Pistons.
“We just bear down,” Beal said. “And to me, I think it starts with me and my efforts on defense, just getting back, setting the tone and getting in the stance and making sure that we’re all engaged. All it takes is one guy to not be engaged, and it’s a domino effect after that.”
Washington (14-28) mostly played reserves in the fourth quarter and still silenced the Detroit offense. The Wizards held their opponents to just five points in a nearly eight-minute stretch, and their dominant defensive performance proved to be the difference in a close game. The Pistons (16-28) scored 19 points in the closing quarter, and the Wizards snapped a three-game losing streak in their final game at Capital One Arena before embarking on a four-game, seven-day road trip.
“Defensively, I thought we did a great job of making them take tough shots, and we did a pretty good job of keeping them off the offensive glass,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “There were a couple of late turnovers, but I thought the second half was much better at taking care of the basketball.”
Although Beal was responsible for two of those late giveaways — including one in the final minute that trimmed what had been a 10-point lead to four with 53.2 seconds left — he also helped ice the game with one of his go-to midrange jump shots with 36 seconds remaining. The Wizards moved ahead by six with Beal’s bucket, and the Pistons never got closer. But that jumper didn’t get nearly the same reaction as his step-back three-pointer over Drummond with 5:30 left in the opening quarter.
It wasn’t as dramatic as Michael Jordan pushing off Bryon Russell in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, but Beal dribbled to his right and extended his left arm against the 6-foot-11 Drummond. As Drummond’s momentum carried him out of the frame, and with the Wizards’ bench rising in anticipation to celebrate, Beal completed a behind-the-back crossover, then took one step back beyond the three-point arc for the graceful jumper.
Later in the first half, Beal didn’t need a flashy move as he passed Washington Bullets Hall of Famer Wes Unseld (10,624) for fourth on the franchise scoring list. After finishing with a game-high 29 points on 10-for-21 shooting, Beal has 10,637 and counting.
“It probably still hasn’t hit me yet,” Beal said about his milestone. “It’s an honor because that list is filled with greats — guys who are true Wizards/Bullets legends. To be a part of that is an honor. I never would’ve dreamt of that or thought of it coming here, and to still be here is an honor, too.”
The crowd of 17,305 applauded Beal when his achievement was announced. Although Mahinmi didn’t make history with his 21 points, his effort garnered just as loud of an ovation when he walked to the sideline after fouling out in the fourth quarter.
“Ian was all over the floor,” Brooks said. “I thought he played outstanding on both ends. Throughout the game, he gave us great defensive presence and awareness.”
The bench deserved kudos from Brooks, too.
McRae played 25 minutes one game after appearing to severely twist his left ankle. Smith finished with nine points, seven rebounds and six assists. Troy Brown Jr., who scored only six points, made an impact defending Pistons guard Derrick Rose in the fourth quarter. Although Rose finished with a team-high 21 points, he missed his final six shots and was left frustrated with how things went on both ends of the floor.
“We lost this game defensively,” Rose said. “We just let them get anywhere on the court that they wanted. Turned the ball over. It was all defense tonight.”
Read more on the NBA: