After a physical and emotionally draining game at home on Friday night, the Pistons had to go on the road to face the Washington Wizards to finish off a grueling back-to-back.
It was apparent in the first few minutes of the game that the Pistons were going to be challenged to stay close. It was more apparent in the third quarter, when the Wizards had a 30-point lead and looked to be on the way to an easy blowout win.
The Pistons clawed their way back into the game and made it interesting. They trimmed the lead to three early in the fourth quarter, but they didn’t have enough to finish the job, falling to the Wizards, 106-92, on Saturday night at Capital One Arena.
“We shouldn’t have a takeaway of being down 25 points (at halftime),” coach Dwane Casey said. “It wasn’t anything Washington was doing. They have some talented players, but our focus and give-a-crap level was very low.”
In the fourth quarter, after their big rally, the Pistons (12-33) gave up a 19-4 Wizards run, keyed by Russell Westbrook, who had his 15th triple-double of the season with 19 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists.
Rui Hachimura (14 points) hit a jumper at the 9:09 mark to start the decisive streak and Westbrook scored on a lay-in. Hachimura had six more points during the run and the Wizards extended the margin to 99-83 with 3:45 left, averting the shocking turnaround.
Wayne Ellington (15 points) was the engine of the Pistons’ 32-11 breakout in the third quarter. He had three 3-pointers in just over a minute of game time and he finished with four 3-pointers in the quarter. The Wizards (16-28) ended the run with a three-point play by Daniel Gafford (13 points) and they took a 79-73 lead into the fourth quarter.
After a 3-pointer by Garrison Mathews, Isaiah Stewart (11 points and eight rebounds) had a pair of putbacks that trimmed the lead to 82-79 with 10:17 left. That was the closest the Pistons got the rest of the way.
“We’re coming off a back-to-back and we have to come in ready to play,” Stewart said. “How we played in that third quarter, that’s how we have to be from the start.”
In the first quarter, the Wizards dominated the paint, with eight points each by Gafford and Alex Len (12 points). The Pistons led, 16-14, after a jumper by Mason Plumlee (11 points and eight rebounds) but the Wizards had a 15-3 run by dominating in the paint, with a coast-to-coach drive and a highlight-reel dunk by Hachimura.
Stewart answered with a putback but Gafford scored on an alley-oop and the inside scoring was way too easy for the Wizards, who had a 33-22 lead after the first quarter.
They extended the lead to 68-41 at halftime with more sluggish play from the Pistons, who shot 39% from the field in the game.
Jerami Grant sustained a knee contusion in the third quarter but Casey didn’t have an update on his status in postgame. The Pistons don’t play again until Monday, hosting the Toronto Raptors at Little Caesars Arena.