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Pistons catch up to Wizards

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Amir Johnson dunksThink anyone was exicted about the Tigers game last night? According to NBA.com, fewer than 3,000 people showed up at the Palace last night to watch the Pistons take on the Wizards in the second to last exhibition game of the preseason.

Those that did tune in were treated to an extremely lethargic start -- the Pistons were down eight points before they scored their first bucket of the night and at one point trailed by as many as 18. Not that wins and losses count this time of the year, but the fact the Pistons came back to win this one (especially with Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace sitting out completely) was pretty impressive. Detroit scored the first 10 points of the second quarter and ultimately outscored Washington by 12 points in the third to take the lead for good.

With three starters sitting out, Tayshaun Prince playing just 21 minutes, Nazr Mohammed only 16 and Antonio McDyess just 10, there were plenty of minutes to go around for the back-of-the-rotation guys. Carlos Delfino played 46 minutes. He still struggled with his shot at times, finishing 5-13 from the field, but he did go a respectable 3-7 from three-point land (42.8%). Better yet, he really filled out the box score with 12 (count 'em!) rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block. He's a complete player, not just a shooter, so hopefully this performance helped show Flip Saunders why Delfino deserves regular minutes, even when the jumper isn't falling.

Why did Delfino play so long? Perhaps Saunders was testing him -- from the Detroit News:

Saunders wanted to jump-start a struggling Carlos Delfino by using him as the primary scoring option for a long stretch. Saunders did that, playing Delfino for the first 34 minutes.

"He told me (Monday) that he was tired," Saunders said. "So I decided to play him a lot. I didn't give him time to think about it."

Delfino responded with a double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds), plus six assists and four steals.

"I think that will help (his confidence) a little bit," Saunders said. "He was able to play through some things and he did a good job. He made plays."

Jason Maxiell continued his preseason trend of leading the Pistons in scoring: he shot 7-11 from the field and 7-13 from the line to finish with 21 points, not to mention eight boards. The five turnovers were ugly, but let's chalk that up to him being a bit over-aggressive, and for the time being, that's still a positive trait. After the game, Flip Saunders definitely sounded like he was ready to annoint Maxiell as the team's fourth big man in the rotation:

"Once again, Maxey impressed," said coach Flip Saunders. ... "He was a beast out there. He plays with a reckless abandon. He does a great job of fronting the post, he rebounded, he got out and altered some shots. Throughout the preseason, I can't think of one thing I've been disappointed in with him."

Flip Murray played 38 minutes, finishing with 14 points, eight assists and five boards. He also turned the ball over three times, but that's not too bad for a guy who (despite his claims) isn't a natural point guard playing so many minutes.

Amir Johnson played 20 minutes and was his usual efficient self: eight points on 3-3 shooting from the field and 2-2 from the line. He added four boards, a couple of steals and a block. If you haven't seen him play yet, you better tune in tonight for the preseason finale because he's on the verge of settling in for the long haul at the end of the bench.

As for the Wizards, I was happy to see Gilbert Arenas start the game -- there are few players in the league more fun to watch than him. He played just 14 minutes but had enough time to score 12 points. I didn't pay too much attention to the rest of the team but was impressed by Etan Thomas, who's apparently battling for the starting center job and couldn't have hurt his case with three blocks in 12 minutes.

I'm guessing a lot of you have been getting bored with the preseason, and to those people I have bad news: not only do the Pistons have one more exhibition game left, but it's against the ultra-boring (and Pau-less) Grizzlies. (I almost said it'd be worth watching because of the revenge factor since Memphis beat Detroit earlier in the preseason... but I have a hard time convincing myself the Pistons will be thinking about anything in tonight's finale other than "don't get hurt.") But even so, the game starts at 7 and the first pitch of the Tigers game won't actually happen until something like 8:15 (not to mention the fact that the word out of St. Louis suggests rain may delay the start even further). Watching Maxiell simply HATE the rim (example: here , here, and here) for an hour or so has to be more fun than re-living those "highlights" from Tuesday of Chris Carpenter celebrating and Pudge Rodriguez taking a shot to the balls.

Pistons 101, Wizards 94 box score [ESPN]
Maxiell solidifies spot as backup [Detroit News]