Harris scores 21 in debut but Pistons lose to Wizards
Washington, D.C. — In their first game after the trade deadline, the new-look Pistons looked a lot like the team that lost four of five heading into the All-Star break.
Even with the addition of Tobias Harris, the defense was porous and the offense struggled — a familiar refrain from a .500 start in the first 54 games — against a team that was on a second of back-to-back games.
The Pistons dug an early double-digit deficit and never threatened in the second half, falling to the Washington Wizards, 98-86, on Friday night at Verizon Center.
With their fourth straight loss, the Pistons dropped to 27-28 and below .500 for the second time this season. They were 8-9 on Nov. 29 but rattled off four straight wins after that.
In his Pistons debut, Harris, acquired from the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, scored 10 of his 21 points in the second quarter. He came off the bench and didn’t look out of place, despite just having learned the plays, and shot an efficient 9-of-12 from the field.
“Coach put us in good positions offensively and I like to be an efficient player and take shots I know I can make,” Harris said. “One of my best aspects if just feeding off everybody else.”
The Wizards (25-28) closed within a game of the Pistons in the race for the Eastern Conference playoffs. John Wall was their catalyst, with 22 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.
Washington won on Thursday night also but the Pistons looked like the more lethargic team in their first game after the All-Star break. After parting with Ersan Ilyasova and backup point guard Brandon Jennings in the trade for Harris, they had to shuffle the lineup.
With all the changes, the Pistons had a couple things working against them. Tolliver started at power forward and Harris came off the bench. Steve Blake moved up to backup point guard and Aron Baynes had been sick the past couple of days.
“(Rust) is a little bit of a factor. We’re putting different guys out there in different roles,” said assistant coach Bob Beyer, who subbed in the postgame press conference for coach Stan Van Gundy. “It’s going to take a little bit of time for guys to try to come together and get an understanding of who’s who and what their game is,”
The Pistons made just three of their first 16 field goals and fell into an 18-8 deficit in the first eight minutes, following a 9-0 spurt by the Wizards.
Otto Porter Jr. sparked the run with a 3-pointer, then Marcin Gortat (15 points and nine rebounds) followed with a putback, Wall added a jumper and Jared Dudley added a basket to push the lead to 10.
Harris hit his first shot attempt, a 3-pointer, to get the lead down to 21-13, but the Wizards finished the period on an 8-2 run and led, 29-15, heading into the second period.
Beyer lauded Harris' effort, especially with the short turnaround following the trade.
“That’s a tough situation for a guy coming in on a trade and having one full practice. He’s an extremely intelligent basketball player; he learned two (forward) positions in one day and played both,” Beyer said. “He was effective offensively and I thought he did a really nice job out there tonight.”
Ramon Sessions scored seven straight points over the first and second quarters, including a three-point play that pushed the lead to 16 with 10:51 left in the period.
The Pistons surged behind a boost from their bench as Blake hit a 3-pointer and Harris a pair of free throws. They followed with six straight points, including two baskets by Baynes, to get within 36-26.
Bradley Beal (17 points) followed with a 3-pointer and Harris answered with a drive, Marcus Morris a jumper and Harris another drive, part of a 10-2 Pistons run that cut the deficit to 41-34 with 4:34 left.
But the Pistons didn’t get any closer, as the Wizards scored the next nine points and put the game away early. Gortat had a dunk and a lay-in, Beal a drive and Porter a 3-pointer to make it 50-36.
The Wizards finished the half with five of the last seven points and led at halftime, 55-40. The Pistons never got it within single digits the rest of the way.
Wall scored 11 of his 20 points in the third quarter, including seven of Washington’s nine points midway through the period. Porter added five points and Wall had the final two points of the quarter, pushing the lead to 83-61 — and the rout was on.