WASHINGTON -- We thought the home loss to the Toronto was rock-bottom for John Wall. Apparently not. The Wizards' point guard had arguably an even worse game against the Pistons, going 3-9 with seven turnovers in what ended up being a 96-95 loss.
was a bit of a miracle that it was even that close. The Wizards looked dead in the water with a minute left, but that was before Ariza's explosion. He started by hitting a wild three to cut Detroit's lead to six. Then, after a Pistons turnover, he took a clever kick-out pass from John Wall -- one of the few good plays Wall made all game -- and hit another three.
Finally, after a stifling defensive possession, Ariza did what he does so many times: cut into the passing lane and steal the ball. This time, the referees whistled Will Bynum for a clear-path foul, giving the Wizards an improbable chance to win the game.
But alas, it didn't happen. Wittman ran the game-ending play for Beal and he beautifully split defenders on the pick and roll, but Martell Webster cut to the wing when he should have stayed put, throwing off the play. The best the Wizards could do was a wild Ariza heave that air-balled.
And thus, the Wizards got swept by the Pistons.
That the Wizards led by four point at halftime was a shock considering how they played. They came out sluggish, had a ton of trouble stopping Detroit's HORNS set and surrendered lots of assisted field goals. Worse, John Wall was sluggish yet again, committing four first-quarter turnovers, sitting most of the second quarter and quickly committing a fifth once he came back in. Something seemed off with Wall the whole time.
Luckily, Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza were very much on. Beal scored eight first-quarter points and 12 overall on the same variety of shots we've grown used to seeing, while Ariza was a terror in transition and in the passing lanes while scoring 14. It's amazing to see Ariza find his role as a super-sub defensive ace recently. I never thought I'd grow to appreciate him, but it's happening. He led a flurry near the end of the half to provide the halftime margin.
But the Wizards soon surrendered the lead. Wall's play continued to be lethargic, and that opened the door for Brandon Knight. The Pistons' second-year guard hit a three, then crossed up Wall in transition to lead to a Kyle Singler dunk that gave Detroit a 64-62 lead with 6:53 remaining.
The Wizards called timeout and Wall got more aggressive, but things got way worse. Wall had his shot swatted by Jason Maxiell, and then made a poor gamble, allowing the Pistons to swing the ball twice and hit Kyle Singler for an open three to pus the lead to seven. A few possessions later, Wall threw yet another interior pass off a Pistons defender for a turnover, and Knight turned on the jets to get a transition layup and a foul to push the Pistons' lead to 12. Detroit eventually stretched the lead to 14 after three quarters on the strength of a 21-2 run.
As they have so often recently, the Wizards didn't roll over. They scored seven straight to begin the fourth quarter, thanks to some improved defense and a couple of the special Beal high-post sets jkhan15 discussed here. A YOLT (you only live twice, since I used YOLO in Monday's recap) shot from Price in the corner cut the Pistons lead to seven, and a Detroit turnover forced a timeout.
That didn't stem the tide, though. Kevin Seraphin, freed from Wittman's doghouse, put back a missed Beal shot, then hit a hook in the lane to cut Detroit's lead all the way down to three. Kim English finally stopped the Wizards' run with a layup on the ensuing possession, but we now had a ballgame.
The Pistons responded to the Wizards' run, pushing their lead back to seven with under four minutes left, so Wittman went back to Wall. But things didn't improve. A Kyle Singler jumper off a curl screen pushed the Pistons' lead to nine, and Wall layup attempt sailed wildly off the backboard on the next possession.
The Pistons missed chances to push the lead even more, but the Wizards never mounted enough of a comeback. They kept trading buckets when they needed to get stops, and that clock kept ticking down. Ariza's explosion proved too little, too late.
As for Wall, his play now is a huge concern. The Wizards, at this point, are succeeding in spite of him. He needs to snap out of his funk, and fast.