'It wasn't pretty': Pistons hold on to drop Wizards
Detroit — With two struggling teams, something had to give. The Pistons had lost nine of their previous 11 games and the Wizards had dropped seven of nine.
Somebody had to win.
Early on, it looked to be the Pistons in a runaway, as they built a 22-point lead in a breakout third quarter — only to see the Wizards rally and trim the margin to three in the final minutes.
Unlike some leads they’ve squandered in recent games, the Pistons held on this time — despite 24 turnovers — and took a 106-95 victory over the Wizards on Wednesday night in their final game of 2018 at Little Caesars Arena.
The victory ends a two-game losing streak overall and two-game home losing streak and pulls the Pistons (16-16) back to .500 after their brutal slump in December. They start a four-game road trip Friday at Indiana.
After building a huge lead, the Pistons felt fortunate to get away with the win, with 12 fourth-quarter turnovers. According to Fox Sports Detroit, the 24 turnovers are the most in a game since April 17, 2013 and their most in a victory since April 12, 2004.
“Teaching moments are always good after a win. We had a lot of them in fourth quarter — we had 12 turnovers in the fourth quarter. Those are 12 teaching moments, each one of them,” coach Dwane Casey said. “I’ll commend our guys on this: it was a game I felt like was a must-win for morale, for steadying the ship. Guys came in and got it done. It wasn’t pretty and there were a lot of teaching moments in that fourth quarter.”
Blake Griffin had 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists, Langston Galloway scored 22 and Reggie Jackson added 19 points and six assists.
The Wizards (13-22) led 55-54 at halftime, but the Pistons started the third quarter with a 23-2 run. They scored the first 12 points, including a 3-pointer and basket each by Griffin and Bruce Brown. A dunk by Markieff Morris ended the spurt by the Pistons had another 11 straight points, with two baskets by Andre Drummond (16 points and 11 rebounds) and a pair of 3-pointers by Jackson.
The turnovers became a problem in the fourth quarter, as the lead started to dwindle. Jackson had eight points in the final frame but had five turnovers as the ball-handling got sloppy. The Pistons turned things around in time.
“That’s big. We turned the ball over but we’ve got to continue getting better,” Galloway said. “That’s probably our nemesis. We’ve got to continue to move forward and get better.”
They had their biggest lead, 83-61, after Griffin’s 3-pointer at the 4:33 mark, but the Wizards finished the quarter on an 11-2 run, with two 3-pointers by Trevor Ariza (16 points) and back-to-back baskets by Bradley Beal (21 points).
John Wall (21 points, seven rebounds and eight assists) had 19 points in the first half but was limited in the second half. The Wizards trimmed the lead and got within 94-91 with 3:37 left on a drive by Wall.
The lead was 96-93 at the 3:04 mark but the Pistons scored 10 straight points, with six free throws by Jackson, two by Drummond and a breakaway dunk by Griffin to put it away.
“It was important just like every game is important,” Griffin said. “It’s the NBA; our record is 16-16.”
1. After scuffling offensively and going scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting, Galloway has found his groove again, with his second straight game in double figures. He had 18 points against the Hawks on Sunday and followed it up with another strong performance, going 4-of-7 on 3-pointers, a critical element for the Pistons. He’s finding other ways to contribute off the bench and give the second unit and offensive lift.
2. After Wall got loose for 19 points in the first half, Brown and the Pistons did a good job on him in the second half, holding him scoreless until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. By then, Ariza and Beal got going and provided the scoring they needed to get back in the game and trim the lead to single digits. Wall generally has standout games against the Pistons but seemed to trail off late.
3. Brown got another start, likely matchup-based but did well in guarding the talented Wizards backcourt of Beal and Wall. He’s still picking up some rhythm on offense but he’s gaining a reputation on defense to guard some of the best backcourt players in the game and hold his own. Casey said he’s building confidence and Casey is showing that confidence in Brown to give him more starts.
4. Luke Kennard didn’t play in the game, after moving into the starting lineup in recent weeks. Kennard had a sterling 28 points in his first start in the string, but struggled after that, with some tough matchups and what looked to be low energy and passing on some open looks. It looks to be a fluid situation with who’s starting on a game-to-game basis but Casey looks to like Brown’s energy and aggressiveness on defense.
5. Jackson was a catalyst during the Pistons’ big offensive run. He was scoring some, but also found Griffin for easy baskets, which vented some of the pressure from Griffin having to handle and create so much on his own. It’s the next evolution that the Pistons’ offense has to make in finding alternate scorers and facilitators.