Otto Porter Jr. carried the load early Friday night before John Wall and Bradley Beal shepherded the Wizards through the late-game rough patches. The formula worked, as the Washington Wizards relied heavily on their stars in a 115-111 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Porter had a workmanlike game, getting to the rim for most of his game-high 28 points and pulling down nine rebounds. Wall sprinkled in a bit of flair for his 27 points and 10 assists.
No, Wall has not ascended to Air Jordan status, but his fast break spectacle at the 4:35 mark of the third quarter, switching the ball from his left hand to his right in midair before kissing it off glass, was a lot like Jordan's iconic moment from the 1991 NBA Finals.
By the end of the game, however, fundamentals replaced flash.
Beal got to the rim twice in the final minutes with aggressive plays and finished with 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting. And with 46 seconds remaining and the Wizards leading by two, Porter forced a turnover by deflecting the ball off Detroit's Avery Bradley.
In the closing seconds. with the outcome still in doubt and most of the announced 16,337 fans on their feet inside Capital One Arena, Porter's defensive awareness created a loose-ball scrum. He didn't win the jump ball against Detroit's big man Jon Leuer but in the chaos, the Wizards again earned possession and controlled the final frantic moments to improve to 2-0. The Pistons fell to 1-1.
Since the Wizards lacked frontcourt depth without Jason Smith, who missed the game due a right shoulder injury, Coach Scott Brooks shortened the rotation, usually keeping at least one starter on the floor while working in his reserves. Porter handled that responsibility by stabilizing the offense for 20 points through the first half, but his presence could not keep the Wizards from falling into a hole.
Through the first half, the Wizards' defensive effort inspired groans from the crowd and sulking on the sideline. Early into the second quarter, Washington assistant coach Tony Brown stood and held up two fingers in the shape of horns to signal the Pistons' next play. Still, Washington wasn't ready to keep up with the action as backup point guard Ish Smith sliced through the perimeter defense and sent a pass to Luke Kennard who was open beyond the arc. A simple pump fake lost the defender, and Kennard drilled the wide-open 17-foot jumper. Brown watched the shot find the net, then leaned back into his seat after another failed possession. Detroit shot 55.1 percent from the field.
The problem wasn't just poor team defense but that the Wizards could not stop the Pistons' role players. That Kennard jumper, part of a 9-2 run, illustrated his team's depth as the Detroit bench outscored Washington in the first half, 30-9.
Although Porter played as the finisher while on the floor with his second-unit teammates, scoring layups and dunks before halftime, the lack of stops muted his scoring impact. Detroit center Andre Drummond's dominance under the glass was a big reason the Pistons held a plus-10 rebound advantage at intermission.
Late in the second quarter, Drummond blew a chance for a monster putback dunk, but his offensive rebound set in motion a clinic in unselfish ball movement that unhinged Washington's defensive rotations. After Tobias Harris corralled Drummond's missed dunk, the Pistons made four passes, sending Wizards' defenders flying out of position, before Reggie Jackson hit an open three.
Detroit drilled six three-pointers by halftime while Washington walked off the court in a 65-58 deficit after missing all five of its deep attempts.
Just before that long walk to the tunnel, Wall tilted his head to the ceiling in disbelief after watching Detroit end the half with one more jump shot. That frustration, however, turned into focus by the third quarter as Wall began demoralizing the Detroit defense. After Marcin Gortat laid out to save a loose ball, Wall took the possession then pulled up for the long-range three that gave Washington the 72-69 lead, its first since the 3:33 mark of the opening quarter.
Joining Wall, Porter added two more triples and Washington hit 5 of 6 from the arc through the third quarter. The improved shooting paired with a cameo appearance for the defense — Detroit missed 13 of 20 shots — drove Washington to a 33-point quarter. By the fourth, this offensive focus shifted to defensive grit and the Wizards survived a sloppy finish.
Read more Wizards coverage: