AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The game was already lost, already out of control, but the Washington Wizards gathered around Coach Randy Wittman as he drew up one more play late in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons.
As Wittman started scribbling, a wayward Pistons mini-basketball shot from a cannon machine landed directly on his dry-erase board and bounded underneath the Wizards’ bench. Center Emeka Okafor shot back, stunned. Wittman angrily glared at the Pistons’ mascot, Hooper, gathered himself, and went back to designing the play for a team that had been putting up errant shots all night.
After the Wizards suffered their most lopsided loss of the season, 100-68, Friday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Wittman again made himself the target.
“I apologize, to ownership, our fans back home that watched it — if they did watch it. I’d have turned it off after the first five minutes,” Wittman said. “That falls on me.”
The Wizards may have been down to just nine healthy players, with Bradley Beal forced to miss his second game with a back injury and Nene sitting out to rest his sore left foot, but Wittman wasn’t making excuses for a woeful performance that he deemed “embarrassing.”
“Even though we’ve got eight or nine guys right now, I’ve got to find five that can play and play with confidence like you belong in the NBA. Like you belong,” Wittman repeated for emphasis. “I’ve got to do that. I’ll take responsibility for that.”
Depleted and dejected, the Wizards (3-21) delivered a depressing platter of blown dunks, bad jumpers and poor box-outs. They lost their sixth consecutive game, set a season low for points in game and a half (34), and shot just 32.9 percent — which actually is not a season-low for the NBA’s worst shooting team.
With 90 seconds left in the game, the Wizards had just 63 points and were in danger of setting the franchise record for fewest points in a game. But Shaun Livingston, who was starting in place of Beal, converted a three-point play to help them avoid at least one ignominious record in a start that ranks as the worst in the history of the organization.
“Just one of those wacky games. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong,” Okafor said after recording eight points with eight rebounds. “You’re trying to fight, because you’re competitors. You don’t give up, you’re out there. But obviously, whatever you’re doing is just not working. The harder you fight, it’s like you’re stuck in quicksand, you’re sinking faster.”
For the first time since their record was 0-1, the Wizards stepped on the court against an opponent that had more losses than they did. The Pistons not only had 21 defeats, they entered the contest on a six-game losing streak. But the Wizards were out of the game from the beginning, missing 10 of their first 11 shots and scoring just five points in the first eight minutes. The Wizards continued to rattle different parts of the rim and backboard with horrific misses that made Wittman shake his head or simply look on, shocked.
“We just never played with any confidence,” Wittman said. “That was embarrassing, from an offensive standpoint, to play the way that we did. I don’t care who’s in or who’s not in.”
Nene sat out for the third game since returning from plantar fasciitis nearly a month ago. Without his intelligence and interior presence, the Wizards have lost those games — to San Antonio, Miami and now Detroit — by a total of 88 points.
Beal warmed up before the game but the soreness in his back after an awkward landing in Tuesday’s loss at Atlanta kept him confined to bench. He said after the game that he would attempt to play on Saturday, when the two teams meet for the rematch at Verizon Center.
“They beat us good. We’ve got to come out and play with some pride,” Livingston said of the quick turnaround. “It’s more of a statement. What are we doing?”
Detroit (8-21) has been struggling — like Washington — with underdeveloped talent and underperforming veterans. It had no problems against the Wizards, with five players scoring in double figures, led by Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, who had 15 apiece.
“We can’t make excuses. Everybody is an NBA player. When somebody down, it’s just another person get an opportunity. Got to take advantage of it,” said Jordan Crawford, who was back in his home town and scored a team-high 20 points, accounting for seven of the Wizards’ 15 field goals in the first half. “We was taking punches all night.”
From the Pistons and their mascot.