Washington, D.C. — Reggie Jackson remembers the bad losses against the Washington Wizards all too well. The Wizards have won five straight at home in the head-to-head series, including a 43-point blowout in 2016, which still is fresh in many of the Pistons’ minds.
The Pistons looked to be on the way to another double-digit spanking, facing a 15-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter. They started to get some defensive stops and baskets on the other end, erasing the margin and taking the lead with less than five minutes left.
The Big Three of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter had an answer though, combining for 79 points in the Wizards’ 115-111 victory over the Pistons on Friday night at Capital One Arena.
Reggie Jackson had 21 points, five assists and four steals, Avery Bradley added 18 points and Tobias Harris 15 points for the Pistons (1-1).
The Pistons found it hard to defend the talented trio, committing 17 turnovers — which the Wizards converted into 19 points — and had a foul differential of 26-15. Washington made 29 of 35 free throws, compared to the Pistons’ 15-of-20.
“It’s not a very hard game to analyze — turnover and fouls,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “If they’re going to shoot that many more free throws than we are and we’re going to turn the ball over that many times, it’s going to be hard to win anywhere — but especially on the road against a good team.”
Wall (27 points and 10 assists) hit two free throws with 1.3 seconds left to ice the win for the Wizards (2-0). Porter finished with 28 points and Beal 24. The trio combined to score Washington’s last 17 points in the final 6:28.
The Pistons had chances to score in the final minute, but Jackson’s drive to the basket was blocked and after a jump ball, they couldn’t get the go-ahead score.
“(We) don’t quit. We’ve been in this building and they’ve definitely handled us the prior years,” said Jackson, who was 3-of-7 on 3-pointers and played 32 minutes. “We wanted to come out here and fight and show we weren’t going to lay down. I’m proud of the way the team battled.”
The Pistons trailed, 98-83, with 10:29 left, but Jackson scored nine of their next 11 points. Harris followed with a pair of free throws and Jon Leuer scored off a pass from Jackson to close the margin to 98-96. Harris could have tied it but split a pair of free throws to cut the lead to one.
“He really, really fought hard,” Van Gundy said of Jackson. “He was trying to attack and make plays and we had a couple unfortunate plays down the stretch.”
Beal hit a floater and Wall two free throws, but the Pistons responded with a 7-0 spurt, with two free throws from Leuer and Stanley Johnson (10 points) and a 3-pointer from Bradley, for a 104-102 lead.
From there, Beal and Wall scored the last 13 points to help put the game away.
“They’re really good players and proven in this league. It makes it tough when you can’t necessarily really play them,” Jackson said. “We weren’t allowed to play basketball. Personally, I might be ashamed of myself if I wore stripes into the building tonight.”
The Wizards’ spurred a surge between the end of the second and third quarters, helping turn an 11-point deficit into a three-point lead, in a stretch of 4 minutes, 22 seconds.
Bradley kept it close, with a 3-pointer with 1:07 left and created a jump-ball off of Wall, giving the Pistons the last shot with 21.1 seconds left. Jackson drove to the paint but his shot was blocked.
Wall made the closing free throws for the final margin.
After not playing in the opener, rookie Luke Kennard had 11 points, all in the second quarter. Henry Ellenson, who had 13 points in the opener, didn’t play.
“I know my teammates and coaches just kept telling me just to be ready. That’s what I did,” Kennard said. “I listened. Taking this opportunity that I've had, and I've learned a lot. I’m just going to continue to stay ready, and if my name is called to play, then I want to try to make an impact wherever I can.”