WASHINGTON — No matter how well things are going for either team, the Detroit Pistons nearly always get the better of the Washington Wizards.
Brandon Knight returned from a right knee injury to score a career-high 32 points, Greg Monroe added 26 points and 11 rebounds on the court where he played college home games for Georgetown, Jose Calderon finished with 18 assists, and Detroit escaped with a 96-95 victory over Washington on Wednesday night.
The Pistons have won six games in a row over the Wizards, and 14 of their past 16 meetings. And Wednesday’s result represented a reversal of fortunes for both clubs: Detroit had lost three straight games; Washington had won three straight.
But the Wizards were without starting center Nene (sore right shoulder) and got a poor game from point guard John Wall, who had more turnovers (seven) than points (six) or assists (four). It’s the third time in the five games since the All-Star break that the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft had at least a half-dozen turnovers.
Trevor Ariza led the Wizards with 22 points, and his 3 with 34.1 seconds left got Washington within 96-93.
On Detroit’s next possession, Ariza stole the ball and started heading the other way when he was fouled by Will Bynum. It was ruled a “clear path” foul, giving Washington two foul shots and the ball. Ariza went 2 for 2 at the line, making it 96-95 — and giving the Wizards a chance to win after trailing by as many as 16.
After some sloppy ball handling, the Wizards wound up getting a last-second heave from the corner by Ariza. It was an air ball.
Knight missed those previous three Detroit losses, and was considered a game-time decision Wednesday. He was terrific, making 11 of 18 field-goal attempts, including 5 of 6 on 3-point tries.
With Calderon orchestrating things, the Pistons opened the game by collecting assists on each of their first 16 field goals — the team’s highest such total in at least a decade, according to STATS LLC.
By the end of the first quarter, Calderon already was up to eight assists — one more than the Wizards’ entire roster — and Detroit led 28-24.
Without Wall for nearly the entire second quarter, Washington actually pulled out to a 55-51 edge at halftime. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft was unsteady when he was on the court, with five turnovers, two points and one assist in 11 minutes.
And then, on Washington’s first possession of the second half, Wall raised his turnover total to six, getting stripped by Jason Maxiell.
The Wizards were still ahead, 62-57, early in the third quarter, when the Pistons went on their game-changing run, scoring 21 of the next 23 points. Knight scored the first five points and last five of that spurt, and his 3-pointer with 1½ minutes to go in the third quarter made it 78-64.
Washington wasn’t quite done, though. It began the fourth quarter with 11 consecutive points, and a basket by Chris Singleton cut Detroit’s lead to 84-81 midway through the period.
NOTES: The No. 3 overall pick this year, Bradley Beal, scored 16 points for Washington but went 0 for 5 on 3-pointers; his next make from beyond the arc will give him the franchise record for most by a rookie. … As has happened before this season, the loudest roars from the Washington crowd came when an opponent (in this case, Knight) missed both free throws on a trip to the line, meaning spectators won free chicken sandwiches from a fast-food restaurant. … With Nene sitting on the sideline in a black velvet jacket, Trevor Booker made his first start for the Wizards since Nov. 14. He finished with four points and five rebounds.
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