Again the Wizards had to go it without John Wall, and even though Markieff Morris emerged to briefly give them the lead in the fourth quarter that wasn't enough to hold off the Detroit Pistons who qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Morris scored 20 of his game-high 29 points in the third quarter, including a half-court shot at the buzzer, to lead the Wizards (38-41) from 19 points down but they fell at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday 112-99. It was the first and only win over the Wizards in four meetings.
Wall, who had his right knee drained and missed his second game in a row, was replaced in the starting lineup by Ramon Sessions (12 points, six assists). Bradley Beal (25 points, six rebounds) and Nene (13 points) also were key contributors in the comeback from a 19-point deficit.
The Wizards, however, didn't get enough production from Otto Porter (three points) and Marcin Gortat (eight points).
Reggie Jackson (39 points) led the way for Detroit (43-37), followed by Tobias Harris (17 points, nine rebounds), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (14 points), Marcus Morris (13 points, seven rebounds and Aron Baynes (12 points).
- Detroit shot the lights out in the first quarter, when it made 15 of 24 shots (62.5%), including 7 of 9 on three-pointers (77.8%). But the 23rd-best shooting team in the NBA came down to earth as the Pistons went 7 of 20 in the second quarter, and just 3 of 10 on threes, which allowed the Wizards to trail just 62-55 at halftime.
- Beal had 14 shots by halftime, eight more than the next closest player for Washington (Gortat and Sessions), for 16 points to keep his team close. Arguably, this always should be the case even with Wall but especially with him out there's no room for the shooting guard to be passive. Where Beal ran into trouble was running pick-and-rolls with Gortat. He had three turnovers in a three-minute span in the fourth quarter that led to an 11-5 run for Detroit. He finished with six of the Wizards' 12 turnovers, including a key one late in the fourth.
- Of course with no Wall, Jackson was able to have his best game against Washington because Sessions is smaller and not as good defensively. The Wizards went with the longer Garrett Temple and showed over the top of the pick-and-roll with a big with prevent the lob to Andre Drummond who was ineffective. That's why they had a 54-34 edge in points scored in the paint.
- Gortat and Nene did the job on Drummond (eight points, six rebounds) yet again because they are physical enough to keep him off the boards for the easy putbacks. The Wizards went to a hack strategy with eight minutes left in the fourth, a tactic that worked in an earlier meeting. Drummond missed both free throws, including an airball on the second one. Coach Stan Van Gundy made a wise adjustment by sitting his 35.6% foul shooter and going with Baynes, who is a much better at 74.5%. The Pistons only had four field goals in the fourth but 17 free throw attempts to get them out of the jam. The early fouling put the Wizards in the penalty early.
- The Wizards have three games left, but the only thing they have to gain by winning them is not having a losing record. To prevent making things worse, there's no reason to play Wall and even dial back Beal. But given Beal needs more work on his ball-handling and creating off the dribble for others, it wouldn't hurt putting him in a situation where he runs more of the offense. Also, rookie Kelly Oubre should get 30 minutes a game.