Basketball is a game of runs, the saying goes. And the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards exemplified that on Saturday.
The Pistons cut a 30-point third-quarter deficit to three points early in the fourth quarter. The Wizards responded with a run of their own, using a 19-4 fourth-quarter run to pull away and hand the Pistons (12-33) their fourth-straight defeat, 106-92.
Wayne Ellington led the Pistons with 15 points and made five of his 10 3-point attempts, and Mason Plumlee and Isaiah Stewart each added 11 points and eight rebounds. Jerami Grant scored nine points before leaving in the third quarter with a left quad contusion.
Russell Westbrook tallied a 19-point, 19-rebound and 10-assist triple-double for Washington.
A game of runs
The game appeared to be over at halftime. Detroit looked lethargic after a slugfest against the Brooklyn Nets the previous night. Friday’s game was physical with 57 fouls committed by both teams combined, resulting in 87 free throw attempts. The Pistons had to hop on a flight to Washington soon after.
The Wizards held a 27-point lead at halftime and had scored 40 of their 68 points in the paint by that point — nearly as many as the Pistons scored during the entire first half (41). The Pistons were outshot 58.3% to 39.5% over the first two quarters. Washington extended its lead to 30 early in the third quarter. It seemed certain that Detroit would suffer its worst loss of the season.
Instead, the Pistons flipped a switch, . closing the third quarter with a 31-5 run. Lee found Ellington for a 3-pointer midway through the quarter to cut the score to 74-54. From there, Ellington began to take over the next three minutes. He hit two more 3-pointers and assisted a Saddiq Bey dunk in transition to extend Detroit’s run to 18-2.
Stewart added a 3-pointer — his sixth in nine games — to make it a 25-2 Pistons run and reduce the deficit to seven 2:17 remaining in the third. The Wizards finally stopped some of the bleeding with a Daniel Gafford hook during their next possession, their first bucket in more than four minutes. Frank Jackson closed the quarter with a pair of free throws with 1.8 seconds to go.
The Pistons couldn’t maintain their momentum in the fourth quarter, however. They got within three points, 82-79, with a Stewart tip-in early in the quarter. The Wizards then score 19 of the next 23 points to finish what they started in the first half. The Pistons were without Grant in the fourth quarter, but Washington was also without Bradley Beal, who subbed out with 8:57 to go in the third with a right hip contusion.
Saben Lee gets his first career start
With Dennis Smith Jr. and Rodney McGruder out Saturday, Dwane Casey went with Lee, Detroit’s rookie point guard on a two-way contract, in the starting lineup. Lee has been a staple in the rotation since February, but it was his first NBA start.
Lee had a quick start, tallying three assists within the first five minutes. He finished the game with six points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals in 24 minutes.