After getting shellacked on their home court last night against the Utah Jazz, the Detroit Pistons hopped on the plane and flew to our nation’s capital to take on the Washington Wizards. The last time the Pistons visited the Verizon Center, the Wizards blew them out and the Pistons left with a little bit of controversy.
Tonight, would be different.
The Wizards opened up a 20-11 lead as John Wall was slicing to the rim, Nene was getting easy buckets down low, and Trevor Ariza was knocking down the 3-ball.
The Pistons had no energy, so coach Mo Cheeks decided to insert some energy in the form of Kyle Singler, Will Bynum, and Rodney Stuckey. Singler immediately hit a triple on his first shot of the game, Stuckey got to the rim, and then Bynum threw a lob to Andre Drummond as the Pistons closed to within 26-22. They trailed 29-22 after Garrett Temple hit a 3 at the buzzer for Washington.
In the second quarter, trailing 33-27, the Pistons would go on an 11-2 run. Singler had a fall away jumper, Stuckey scored three straight buckets, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope knocked down an open triple and a 38-34 lead. The bench was giving the Pistons a much-needed boost.
However, Cheeks inserted Greg Monroe and Josh Smith back in the game and the Wizards found their footing. Wall found Jan Vesely for an alley-oop, he found Martell Webster for a 3, and then Wall knocked down a 3 of his own. Webster knocked down another 3 and Washington led 54-46 at the half.
In the second half, Smith woke up and he took over. Smith opened by making a jumper, then he cut inside for a layup. Then Smith knocked down another jumper and he freed himself up for another knock down jump shot to bring the Pistons to within 62-58. Then Brandon Jennings got into the act and knocked down a pull up triple and then found Singler spotting up for a triple and a 66-64 lead.
A Jennings triple, a Singler tip in, and a Caldwell-Pope fast break layup helped give the Pistons a 79-76 lead after three. Smith had 12 points in the quarter after having only two in the first half.
In the fourth, Bynum had an And-1 and Smith had back-to-back jumpers for an 88-83 lead with 8:17 to play.
The Wizards would tie it at 88 on a Wall triple and some Nene free throws, but Stuckey attacked the basket and converted an And-1. Then Jennings threw a lob to Drummond for the slam and Stuckey had some free throws for a 95-90 lead.
After a Stuckey turnover, it appeared that Wall had an easy dunk in transition. However, the rookie Caldwell-Pope raced down and rejected Wall’s dunk attempt. Then Stuckey had a jumper and Smith scored four straight points for a 101-95 lead with 1:28 left and the Pistons would ice it with free throws there. The Pistons went on to win 104-98 at the Verizon Center over the Wizards.
Smith scored 22 points, with 20 coming in the second half, and grabbed eight boards. Monroe had 12 and 10, Drummond had 10 and 13, Stuckey had 20, and Singler had 14 off the bench. Jennings had 14 and eight assists.
A few observations; Smith, who we all know is a natural 4 not a 3, had 20 points in the second half while playing the 4! Can you believe it!? Smith was playing his natural position and he actually flourished! Who would’ve thunk? He played the 3 in the first half and had two points and he looked out if sync. Also, the offense flowed better in the second half without Monroe. Just one observation.
Another observation, and an answer to the “Why is Caldwell-Pope starting?” question, Caldwell-Pope held Bradley Beal, one of the better young players in this league, to seven points on 2/14 shooting. Caldwell-Pope pestered him all night and Beal looked frustrated beyond belief. Caldwell-Pope starts for his defense and his 3-point shooting. He was 1/6 from deep tonight, but this was a blip. The rookie’s 3-point shooting has risen every month from 27.5% in November, 38.3% in December, and coming into tonight 41.2% in January. Those stats are according to espn.com. Have faith in the youngster.