Due to work, I caught the last minute or so of Washington’s 97-95 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Monday night, giving me just enough glimpse of a close game that came down to a last second shot, in favor of Rodney Stuckey. And that’s how loss No. 255 during the lifetime of this TruthAboutIt.net Wizards blog (this season being the fifth) went down. TAI’s Rashad Mobley and John Converse Townsend were on-hand at the Verizon Center for his achievement. They now provide their reaction.
Rodney Stuckey scored 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter by repeatedly bulling his way to the rim. And when the game was on the line, he calmly hit a tough jumper over Jordan Crawford. All this from a guy who had not played since March 18, a guy who is still nursing a sore toe. Said Stuckey after the game about the last shot, “I knew I had the step back [jumper], I wasn’t going to go in there and try to force anything, I just tried to take the easy basket, and the step back was the one.”
-John Converse Townsend
The Wizards still found themselves ahead by nine points at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the Pistons began to chip away at the deficit, in large part thanks to Stuckey, who scored all 12 fourth-quarter points in the final eight minutes. With just over a minute left to play, the Wizards lead trimmed to just two points at 73-71, Tayshaun Prince was looking for the game-tying basket in the post. Chris Singleton was holding his ground against Prince without much issue, but Jordan Crawford decided to help off his man, Stuckey, who was camped at the top of the 3-point line. Prince recognized the Crawford’s double-team, which was slow to arrive, and hit Stuckey with a perfect pass. Stuckey swished the wide open 3-pointer, winning the Pistons their first lead since the 9:32 mark in the second quarter. The two teams traded baskets in the final minute before Stuckey dealt the knockout blow: that step back with two-tenths of a second remaining to end the Pistons’ five-game game skid.
Jordan Crawford’s defense. As well as he played offensively (20 points on 16 shots, five assists and three steals), he’s still a liability on the defensive end of the floor, and it showed in the clutch against Stuckey. When Tayshaun got the ball in the post against Singleton, Crawford over-helped, and Stuckey drained the three. And for the game-winning shot, the 6’5″ Stuckey was able to drive, step back and nail the jumper over the 6’3″ Crawford, who seemed to relent more and more space as the seconds ticked away. This would not be a major issue if Crawford’s poor defense against Avery Bradley on Sunday night had not affected the outcome of that game too. JC’s 20 points were nice, but they mean nothing when Stuckey scores five in the last 55 seconds.
John Wall had a strong third quarter that stretched the Wizards’ lead from five to 12 points, and it looked like the Wizards were going to pull away. But when the game was on the line, Wall could not deliver a clutch basket or the clutch assist. And in the fourth quarter, he was only able to muster one assist, zero points. Wall also missed a point-blank layup, albeit a tough one from the baseline, with 11 seconds left that could have been the game winner.
That was … par for the course.
-John Converse Townsend
The Wizards let another double-digit lead slip away in the final moments of the game. They first blew a 22-point lead against the Pacers last Thursday, and then allowed a 16-point lead slip away against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. On Monday night, the Wizards allowed the Pistons, a team that has now been held to fewer than 80 points in three consecutive games, to climb out of a 13-point hole (Washington led 43-30 2:37 into the third quarter).
“At some point, we got to get to the point where we get a lead and we don’t play just to play,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman after the game. “We begin dribbling around — I don’t know what we’re running — we just go out and play, and all of a sudden: BOOM! It’s down to 10, it’s down to seven, it’s down to five and they’re in the game.”
“If you keep running into the same guy and he keeps punching you in the face,” the coach exclaimed, “you’re going to learn to put your hands up. This is three straight times.”