As Ian pointed out on Friday, I was able to make the trek down to D.C. this weekend to join some friends for the Pistons-Wizards tilt at the Verizon Center. We had pretty good seats, the first row of the second level from the opposite diagonal of the Pistons bench -- Section 413, Row A, Seat 8, for those familiar with the Phonebooth.... as the MCI Center turned Verizon Center is called by the local sports radio jockeys.
The first quarter started out well enough, with the Pistons jumping out to a seven-point lead before allowing the Wizards to tie the game just before the end of the period. Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince were definitely hot to start the game -- Rip scored 10 points with a couple of boards in the first quarter, while Tay scored eight points with four boards. Unfortunately, those first-quarter stats accounted for the bulk of their production on the night.
Perhaps overly confident that the starters could overcome any deficit in the second half, Flip Saunders took a long look at his bench in the second quarter, giving every reserve but Jason Maxiell at least a few minutes early in the game. As a result, Rip played less than three minutes in the period and Tay didn't play at all. The frustrating thing was that those two had almost been scoring at will in the first quarter (they shot a combined 8-of-10 from the floor), and it wasn't just luck, as they were getting into the lane with ease and taking high-percentage shots.
The Wizards were also doing a heck of a job scoring -- their 59 points in the first half were the most given up by the Pistons so far this year -- but Detroit struggled to keep up with Rip and Tay, and as a result needed a three-pointer by Tony Delk in the closing seconds of the second quarter to cut the halftime deficit to six.
Unfortunately, that was about as close as it got for the rest of the night, as Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas nailed a couple of three pointers and Brendan Haywood drained a four-footer in the first two minutes of the third quarter -- the six-point deficit was stretched to 14 just like that. The starters went through the motions of trying to mount a comeback for the next 15 minutes of play before calling it a night and eventually giving way to another wave of reserves from the bench. Game, set, match: the Wizards are 31-30, undefeated against the Pistons (remember that overtime loss back in November?) with a losing record against the rest of the league.
But as disappointing as it was to see the Boys in Blue lose, at least I didn't come away empty-handed, as it was free T-shirt giveaway night at the Verizon Center:
(EDIT: OK, fine, maybe the t-shirt actually looked more like this...)
Other thoughts on the game:
- Rip and Tayshaun never got back into their rhythm -- Rip finished with just 16 points; Tay, 10. In fact, Prince played just 24 minutes, sitting the entire second and fourth quarters. In limited time, though, it was nice to see him crash the boards -- he had seven rebounds on the night. . .
- . . . which was three more rebounds than Ben Wallace had in 32 minutes. Big Ben's line for the night: three points, four boards (which matched a season low), two assists, zero blocks, and zero steals.
- In Ben's defense, though, a huge of the reason he wasn't a factor was because the Wizards were simply shooting the lights out from outside: Caron Butler shot 10-14 (4-6 on threes) to score 30, while Gilbert Arenas shot 13-19 (4-8 on threes) to score 34. Heck, even Antonio Daniels drained both of his three-point attempts to finish 5-8 from the field.
- Jarek and Darek put on one of the most disturbing/impressive halftime shows you'll ever see. These videos will explain.
- The "Tony Delk point guard" experiment is a work in progress. I can't count the number of times he dribbled down the shot clock before finding his own shot. He attempted 13 shots in 22 minutes with two assists. (Granted, he wasn't playing point guard the entire time, but you get the drift...)
- It'd be easy to rail against Flip Saunders for his substitution patterns, but that'd be short-sighted. I didn't like the outcome of the game, but it seemed evident to me that he was simply trying to find a way to get his starters some rest on the first night of a back-to-back playing against a team they should be able to beat on most nights.
- By all accounts, singer Kim Jordan did an oustanding job with the national anthem. It's pretty difficult to impress me with a song that's become more or less just another part of the pre-game routine these days, but she managed to do it. I don't know anything else about her other than her name, or I'd point you to another link.
- Washington's mascot G-Wiz is lazy -- does he really need to ride a Segway around during pregame warmups? By the looks of his rotund bottom, methinks not.
I didn't hear about this until after I got home, but did you hear about Flip Saunders' Rasheed-esque reaction to Gilbert Arenas missing a technical foul free throw? Good stuff -- nice video, Natalie.
The Wizards moved to 31-30 with the win, which includes an undefeated record against the Pistons and a losing record against the rest of the league.