Pistons hit Wall in loss, despite Jennings' efforts

Vincent Goodwill Jr.
The Detroit News

Washington — It was done in different ways but a new-school point guard duel took place in the nation's capital between Brandon Jennings and John Wall.

Jennings' swagger was in full bloom, not to be outdone by the NBA's top draft selection from 2010. At times it seemed like they were the only two players on the floor, with the victor having the last chance to make a play.

But basketball is played by 10 men, not two, and the Wizards bench stepped up late to propel them to a 107-103 win at the Verizon Center, and hand the Pistons their third straight loss.

Jennings finished with 32 points and 10 assists, while Wall ended with 27 and 11 assists, but the similarities between the two teams ended with their point guard play, as the Wizards are learning through positive reinforcement that winning is a learned behavior.

The Pistons keep finding demoralizing ways to lose, despite taking a late lead yet again.

Jennings' fast-break layup gave the Pistons a 100-99 lead, only to be matched by Wall's leaning jumper on the next possession, with 1:11 to go. It fit the bill of the last few close scrapes of this young Pistons season — with a similar feel and result.

Greg Monroe lost hold of Jennings' interior pass, then, of course, the Wizards converted on a Marcin Gortat dunk with 38.9 seconds left, giving the Wizards a three-point lead.

It wasn't lacking for excitement or effort on the Pistons' end to break their increasingly bad habits, but execution down the stretch wasn't fluid enough to pull out a win against a team many believe is ready for Eastern Conference contention.

"I thought we executed better. We got better shots than we'd been getting in the fourth quarter," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Down the stretch we played a little bit better. We just didn't get it done."

The Pistons' final chance was wasted when they couldn't corral a defensive rebound off a Wall missed free throw, with veteran Paul Pierce tipping the ball out to Rasual Butler with four seconds left.

Jennings scored 16 in the first quarter, as he and backcourt mate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (20 points) scored 20 of the Pistons' first 27 points, helping them to a 13-point lead. Jennings' scores were dramatic and had flair, even the hair-pulling kind.

Racing down the floor, Jennings tiptoed the baseline, and couldn't see Monroe open under the basket.

No matter.

He was hot, and he knew it. Jennings launched a 3-pointer as soon as he got behind the line, as the whistle blew for a foul.

Four-point play completed, he was in a zone.

"Staying aggressive, I didn't shoot (well) in Chicago," Jennings said. "My shot was falling for me early so I flowed with it."

But Jennings' zone was counteracted by Andre Drummond being in the Twilight Zone, looking lost, frustrated and confused in his foul-trouble-filled 23 minutes, where his biggest contribution to the stat sheet was his five rebounds and four fouls. Drummond had one field goal.

He was invisible, leaving the majority of the interior work to Monroe and Josh Smith. Meanwhile, Gortat scored 14 with 13 rebounds.

"I don't have any idea," said Van Gundy, when asked about Drummond's continued struggles.

The usually playful Drummond was clearly anything but after the game.

"It's not an individual game, and everybody has their streaks of shaky moments. I'm not getting down on myself," he said. "It's an 82-game season."

Drummond picked up two fouls in the first quarter, which coincided with Wall attempting to neutralize the Pistons' hot start — without making a field goal. He went to the line 10 times in the first, and his trademark speed single-handedly brought the Wizards back, drawing so much defensive attention his teammates had no choice but to make a few open shots.

With Wall pacing them, the Wizards shot 65 percent in the second quarter to essentially draw even, with Butler catching fire and Kris Humphries taking advantage of his opportunities. Butler made seven of eight off the bench to score 18 while Humphries scored 12 with nine boards.

"We kept fouling, we were undisciplined," Van Gundy said. "(Wall is) fast as hell but we have to get back."

The Pistons didn't buckle on the road, playing even with the Wizards and even leading by four midway through the final period.

And although this loss clearly hurts, their 21-year-old center's lack of production is just as big of a problem.