Auburn Hills — This was more than a game for the Washington Wizards. It was a mission to slow down Pistons center Andre Drummond, who has played so well that chants of "MVP" can be heard at The Palace.
The game plan worked as the Wizards walked away with a 97-95 victory Saturday night at The Palace, ending Drummond's double-double streak at 11 games.
Drummond, who has been tearing up the league, finished with eight points and 13 rebounds but failed to grab one offensive board, which usually gets his offense going. Drummond was a little tired from playing the night before and from having an upper-respiratory condition.
The Wizards (6-4) were refreshed from playing their first game in three days.
But here is the bottom line. Teams have video on Drummond and the Wizards said they studied it long and hard.
Point guard Reggie Jackson might be the quarterback of this team, but opponents know Drummond is the drum beat.
"We did get ready for him," said Wizards center Marcin Gortat, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds and battled Drummond much of the evening. "We were battling. We were focused on him. We did a good job on the boards but at the same time we go after him offensively to make him tired."
The plan was for all bigs to outwork Drummond.
"It did not look like he had a lot of energy tonight," Gortat said. "I take a lot of pride in playing a guy like that because he is a rising star in this league and he has literally been destroying people. I am glad I had a good game against him and we won."
The Pistons' bench laid another stinker and was outscored by the Wizards' bench, 51-15. The Wizards' reserves were 21-for-29 shooting (72 percent), grabbed 21 rebounds and passed for 13 assists. Substitute Nene finished with 18 points and seven rebounds and went 9-for-10 from the floor by attacking the basket.
The Pistons' bench countered with just seven rebounds and three assists and was 6-for-20 from the field (30 percent). Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy knows he is playing his starters too much, but there is little he can do with an inconsistent bench.
The starters were a combined plus-59 in plus/minus. The Pistons' reserves were a minus-69.
"We need to get those minutes down," Van Gundy said. "Look at the plus/minus. Our starters were dominant and we still couldn't get a win. It was frustrating."
The Wizards punched the Pistons (7-6) with fast breaks and by attacking the basket. But the game still came down to one final play. The Pistons, trailing by two, forced the Wizards into a five-second violation with 9.2 seconds remaining.
Guard Reggie Jackson broke off the play too soon and fired a pass to Marcus Morris, whose feeble 3-point shot failed to get to the basket.
"I have to trust that we have enough time to complete the play," Jackson said. "I got nervous. We didn't have enough time. I have to trust that the play is going to develop."
Van Gundy would not say what play was called but he was not happy with the result.
"We broke the play," he said. "We didn't have the discipline to go to the last option."
Drummond had a chance to keep the streak alive, but missed an easy basket with the team trailing 94-91. Gortat countered with an easy basket with 1:06 remaining.
Forward Otto Porter led the Wizards with 17 points and five rebounds.
Jackson finished with 20 points and nine assists. Drummond was the only starter to not be in double-digit scoring. Morris (18 points, nine rebounds), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (16 points) and Ersan Ilyasova (18 points and five rebounds) were also in double figures.
It was a spirited early-season game. If the Pistons want to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009, they must likely beat out the Wizards, who are one of those bottom-feeder teams that will fight for a playoff berth.
It was clear this loss stung the Pistons. Morris sat in his dressing stall with a jersey over his head and Jackson had a look of disgust on his face. Touchy calls by the officials did not help matters.
Now the Pistons take time off and regroup for a Monday road game at Milwaukee against the Bucks and former teammate Greg Monroe. Van Gundy must find a way to give starters a break.
"They (the starters) were tired, no question about it," Van Gundy said. "But nonetheless, we had a three to tie with Marcus and then we don't execute the last play. There's no excuse for that. I don't care if you're tired."