For the second game in a row, the Detroit Pistons led a close game in the final minute. After stumbling in Orlando two nights prior, they took advantage at home Tuesday, defeating the Washington Wizards, 99-96.
Greg Monroe led all scorers with 18 points, adding seven rebounds and five assists. Andre Drummond grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, falling one point shy of a double-double. But while Detroit's talented bigs continue to look impressive, it was actually heady play in the backcourt that saved this game.
The Pistons never trailed Tuesday night, but they did let a 24-point lead in the first half completely disappear when the Wizards pulled even, 83-83 with 6:03 remaining in the fourth. That's when Detroit's two-headed point guard took over, with Chauncey Billups recording a pair of 3-pointers and an assist and Will Bynum converting two layups and three assists the rest of the way, sealing the win.
"That’s not unusual to see Chauncey do those kinds of things," said Mo Cheeks after the game, according to Pistons.com. "He kind of runs the game, takes over the game late in the game and allows me not to have to necessarily call a timeout because I have him out on the floor. He can tell guys where to go and he can run certain plays for us. As long as we get the ball in his hands, we feel pretty confident in him running the play or making the shot."
Billups finished the game with 12 points (all from beyond the arc) and six assists in 32 minutes. Bynum scored 13 points with nine assists in 25 minutes off the bench. Jonas Jerebko added 11 points in 23 minutes, while rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored five (2-6 shooting, 1-5 on threes) in 17 minutes.
The Pistons threatened to bury the Wizards with a scorching first half, entering the break with a 65-43 lead and shooting 63.4 percent (including 7-of-12 from 3-point land!) with 22 assists on 26 field goals. It was a truly collaborative effort, with 10 of the 11 players who got on the floor scoring at least four points (sorry, Charlie).
If the law of averages suggested Detroit's red-hot shooting would cool after halftime, their sudden lack of ball movement guaranteed it. After putting on a clinic of unselfish passing in the first half, the Pistons managed just two assists through the first 18 minutes after the break. Instead of making the extra pass and swinging the ball from one side of the court to the other, the Pistons got sticky fingers.
Monroe and Drummond were hardly without blame -- they combined to shoot 2-for-7 near the basket (and 0-for-2 on midrange jumpers) in that 18-minute span. It may have also been a function of the game slowing down: the Pistons scored 12 of their 14 fast break points before the break.
But as disheartening as it was for the Pistons to lose focus at halftime, at least they managed to regain it when it mattered. From the moment Washington tied the game 83-all, the Pistons shot 60 percent the rest of the way, recording five assists on six made field goals. The Pistons literally ended the game as hot as they started it. I just hope they realize they can't afford to take 18-minute naps against most teams.
"It’s the NBA so players are going to make runs and teams are going to make runs," said Billups after the game, "but I was kind of happy that, tie game with six minutes to go, that’s how you learn to execute; slow down, make the right plays, don’t break the plays and stuff like that; you learn it when games are on the line."
Buzz-killing caveat: It's worth noting the Wizards didn't have a single starter on the court during the final six minutes when the Pistons made their stand. But by the same token, they weren't on the court for the first six minutes of the fourth, either. Plus, the Pistons were shorthanded the entire game, with Josh Smith receiving a scheduled night off and Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey and Gigi Datome nursing injury.
Kevin Seraphin was a monster for the Wiz in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 14 points and grabbing six of his 11 rebounds in the final frame. That's when Glen Rice, Jr., who scored five points, did all of his damage, as well. Rice had a chance to be the hero but missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Kyle Singler replaced Smith in the starting five, joining Drummond, Monroe, Billups and Peyton Siva for the opening tip. Singler played well with 14 points (5-10 shooting), including nine from beyond the arc (3-6). Siva, who played 47 minutes against the Magic, played just 23 against the Wiz, finishing with five points and three assists.
The Pistons (3-4) play their eighth and final preseason game Thursday at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves (7:30 p.m. ET).