What an absolutely bizarre game. There was so much weird stuff going on tonight in D.C. that it’s hard to know where to start. I’m really not sure there’s an adjective that fits this game better than “bipolar.” Play went from euphoric highs to crushing lows for both teams, with the Pistons outscoring Washington by 18 in the third before allowing the Wizards to outscore them by 14 in the fourth culminating in a missed three from Trevor Ariza that would have won the game.
The box score was appropriately unbalanced for the Pistons, who shot better from three (9-15) than they did from the free throw line (9-16). Jose Calderon dished out 18 assists to only two turnovers, but scored only six points on as many shots. Conversely, Brandon Knight’s return from injury saw him drop a hyper-efficient 32 points on 18 shots that unfortunately coincided with passing — an even four assists to four turnovers — as sloppy as Calderon’s shooting was. 11 Pistons got playing time, but only six were on the court for 15 minutes or more, and Kim English was the only bench player to do anything particularly productive.
Things were similarly off for the Wizards. John Wall, in particular, couldn’t seem to get anything going, finishing with an ugly six points on nine shots and nearly twice as many turnovers (7) as assists (4). Ariza, AJ Price, and Kevin Seraphin randomly stepped up to carry the team for stretches, with Ariza wreaking havoc in the passing lanes and from three, and almost single-handedly keeping Washington in the game late.
The end sequence tonight for Detroit was the kind of unmitigated disaster that can get coaches fired (providing, of course, that the team loses). The Pistons had a 96-93 lead and the ball with only 34 seconds left in the game before running an aimless set that mostly consisted of Jose Calderon running the clock down — something we’ve grown accustomed to from Frank late in close games — before Trevor Ariza snatched his errant pass to Will Bynum, who promptly committed a clear path foul. Ariza hit both free throws and Washington suddenly had the ball with 12 seconds remaining and a chance to win the game. Fortunately for the Pistons (and Frank), Ariza missed a corner three, literally hitting nothing but net — to the point that even George Blaha and Greg Kelser thought the shot was good.
I’m happy to see Detroit sneak out with a victory, but that last possession was just baffling. For one, Frank subbed Will Bynum in for Knight, despite the fact that Bynum was 1-7 and had been sitting on the bench for most of the second half, while Knight had played the majority of the fourth and surpassed his career high in scoring. There just isn’t an adequate explanation for something that dumb, and it completely blew up in Frank’s face, with a clear path foul from Bynum that he had absolutely no reason to commit. Unless Ariza squared up for three instead of taking a wide open layup or dunk, the Wizards would’ve been forced to foul. That would’ve essentially been a death sentence with Jose Calderon on the court to shoot free throws and time running down. Instead, Washington got their two free points and a free shot to steal the game, which they couldn’t quite capitalize on.
Regardless, a disaster that ends in a win is progress for Detroit at this point, at least until Andre Drummond returns. As easy as it is to rationalize losses with lottery balls, they can’t fill the void that losing leaves or replace the rush of endorphins that accompany a winning effort. There are glaring problems that need to be addressed, but those can wait — for now.