AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — About a third of the way through the regular season, the Washington Wizards are at .500.
That’s progress for a team that’s looking more and more like playoff material in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s big, and we know where we want to be,” swingman Martell Webster said. “At this point in the year, it’s a time we’ve got to get rolling. When teams start to click, the offensive and defensive schemes start to be all muscle memory.”
John Wall scored 29 points and the Wizards became the latest team to rally past Detroit in the fourth quarter, beating the Pistons 106-99 on Monday night. Washington scored the first 11 points of the fourth, a run capped by Webster’s 3-pointer that put the Wizards ahead 89-87.
Detroit never led again. Brandon Jennings had 15 points and 14 assists for the Pistons, who have lost five of six.
“We had a nice game going for three quarters, but we didn’t keep playing,” Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks said. “We got stagnant, and they ran pick-and-roll and kept scoring, and we didn’t. In the fourth quarter, it comes down to who makes plays.”
Trevor Ariza scored 15 points for the Wizards, who also beat Detroit 106-82 on Saturday in Washington. The Wizards have won five of six.
“Games like this are hard, especially the way we won the one back in D.C.,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “We knew these guys were going to come out and really come after us. That first half, they did.”
Bradley Beal scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half for Washington.
The Wizards (14-14) are at .500 after 28 games for the first time since finishing the 2007-08 season 43-39, according to STATS.
“We came back and fought in the second half,” Wall said. “Most of their points in the first half came on second-chance points and they killed us in the paint. We just came in at halftime and said we have to rebound.”
It was another frustrating loss for Detroit, outscored 28-12 in the fourth quarter. The Pistons (14-19) have also blown comfortable fourth-quarter leads at home against Portland and Charlotte during the latter part of December.
The Wizards led 101-97 with a minute to go, and Detroit’s Josh Smith had his driving attempt blocked by Marcin Gortat. Wall connected from near the elbow at the other end to make it a six-point game.
Detroit led 63-53 after an up-tempo first half. During one sequence, Greg Monroe dunked over Wall to give the Pistons a 24-19 lead, only to have Ariza answer with a 3-pointer seconds later.
Detroit rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored a career-high 17 points, all in the first half. In the second quarter, he missed a dunk on a fast break, but the Pistons came up with the ball and Caldwell-Pope was able to spot up for a 3-pointer to put Detroit ahead 49-44.
“I really had a rhythm going in the first half, but I couldn’t get it back in the second half. I was trying to loosen up and get back into that same feeling, but it didn’t happen,” Caldwell-Pope said. “They didn’t take anything away from us. We just stopped moving the ball. We’ve got to finish games and make plays in the fourth.”
The Pistons entered the game leading the NBA with 14.4 offensive rebounds per game. They had 14 in the first half against Washington.
“You can’t allow that to happen,” Webster said. “We wanted to come out in the second half and take that away.”
Detroit had only four offensive rebounds in the second half.
NOTES: Detroit G Rodney Stuckey (shoulder) did not play. … Wall went 14 of 15 on free throws. The Pistons could have used some of that marksmanship — they went 2 for 9 in the first quarter and 21 of 35 for the game. … Wall reached the 20-point mark for a seventh straight game.
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