December 10, 2019

Washington Wizards follow familiar script, blow second half double-digit lead to Detroit

by Ben Standig, Special to District Sports Page

Have you heard the one about the Washington Wizards twice on their home court sporting a double-digit lead in the second half only to fall behind in the closing seconds and lose? Well, if you re-tell the tale, make sure to upgrade the scenario to a three-peat.

Despite a 13-point cushion in the third quarter and a 12-point advantage in the fourth, the Wizards once again failed to close out an opponent. Yet unlike the previous home setbacks, which came versus potential playoff squads Indiana and Atlanta, the latest setback came against a Detroit Pistons also struggling mightily for wins. Well, they were anyway.

The Pistons roared back and took a lead with less than a minute remaining. After Nene’s short hook shot tied the game with 5.8 seconds left to play, Rodney Stuckey’s long jump shot with 0.2 seconds remaining propelled the Pistons to a 79-77 win over the Wizards on Monday night.

“It’s mental. It’s mental for sure. You think about it all the time,” said Jordan Crawford, who led the Wizards with 20 points. “We’re playing to not lose and that’s why we’re not winning. It’s frustrating. We got to play to win the game.”

The Wizards lost for the third time in three days and overall sport a four-game losing streak. The Pistons, led by Stuckey’s 24 points, snapped a five-game losing skid.

Crawford’s jumper with 8:49 remaining gave the locals a 67-55 lead, but the Pistons quickly countered with a 12-1 run in less than five minutes.

The Wizards maintained the lead until the final minute – just as they did against the Pacers and Hawks – when they left Stuckey alone at the top of the 3-point arc. The Pistons leading scorer buried the open shot and the Wizards suddenly trailed for the first time in the second half, 74-73.

The lead changed sides twice, but John Wall missed a baseline lay-up after taking a handoff from Nene on the low block. Ben Wallace grabbed the rebound and made one of two free throws, putting the Pistons up 77-75 with 10.5 seconds remaining and the Wizards called timeout. The Wizards then fed Nene, who returned to the lineup after sitting out Sunday’ loss at Boston with back spasms, and the veteran center dropped in the tying basket.

The Pistons passed on the timeout and inbounded to Stuckey, who maneuvered past Crawford and Roger Mason before sticking the pull-up jumper.

Wizards coach Randy Wittman had seen this scenario before. Oh yes, he was all too familiar with it – and none too happy.

“It was a carbon copy of the last two (home) games,” Wittman said “We have to get to the point where we get a lead and we don’t play just to play. We have to put games away in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. We haven’t learned that yet. This is three straight times so we have to really tighten the screws and buckle down to get wins. It’s frustrating and it hurts our guys, but it is a learning experience.”

*John Wall finished with 14 points and nine assists, but shot 6-of-17 from the field and missed seven of nine shots in the second half including all three attempts in the fourth quarter. Over his last five games – which coincide with the recent blockbuster trade – the Wizards point guard is shooting 30.8 percent (21-of-68) from the field.

*Kevin Seraphin, starting in place of Trevor Booker (right knee tendinitis, plantar fasciitis) sank 6-of-9 shots and finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Nene scored six of his eight points in the fourth quarter and grabbed nine rebounds.

*Stuckey scored 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter. Plagued by foul trouble, former Georgetown Hoyas star and Pistons starting center Greg Monroe took only four shots in 24 minutes, but still posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Tayshaun Prince added 18 points.

*The Pistons finished with a 49-40 rebounding edge, a 15-8 margin on the offensive glass which led to a decisive 23-5 advantage in second chance points.

*Olympic swimming hero and Baltimore native Michael Phelps sat courtside, two seats over from Wizards owner Ted Leonsis.

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